Friday, June 10, 2005

Windfall Prophets

To hear people use the word you’d think that the notion of spirituality was as plain and unambiguous as $3.45. I don’t mind admitting that I’m less clear about either the referent or the intention of the term. In fact, I just don’t know what it means. On the other hand, I do know at least one thing it’s for. Like many other words that lack an overt definition, it certainly has a job description. For example, you trot out “spirituality” on those occasions when you want to intimate that you are a decently deep individual even though you are also a little too sophisticated for more mythological or dogmatic or organized forms of religion.

I don’t have much use for “spirituality” myself because I’m always trying to be as shallow as I can. That’s my job: to pursue the horizontal depth of the literal. I guess in a pinch I could identify as spirituality the Psalmist’s solitary insomnia or my own recurrent surprise and delight at the spectacle of the world, a gratitude that tempts me to invent somebody to thank. Mostly, though, I avoid using terms like spirituality whose meaning eludes me. It doesn’t seem quite decent to speak so loosely about what is rumored to be the most important dimension of life. I certainly have the exclusive rights to that particular scruple. Folks who are otherwise very cautious of speech immediately lose all restraint once the time comes to make vague religious assertions, and the modern precedents are all on their side.

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