Archive for the ‘trust’ Category

So What About the Non-Religious?   2 comments

You may know some of “them.”  (What’s it say about us that we say “them”?) They’re often wonderful people, they raise families, they “contribute to society,” they’re fun to be around — and they may seem not to have a religious or spiritual bone in their bodies.  And that’s not only something to “tolerate” or “accept.”  It’s just as it should be. “I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead,” says H. D. Thoreau.

Two couples whose company my wife and I delight in and seek out certainly qualify as non-religious: you can see their unease or discomfort if the topic happens to come up in conversation.  An innocent question, or a comment in passing. “What’s that pin you’re wearing?” or “What did you do last month when you were in Minneapolis?” And hearing our answer, a kind of stiffness, a change in expression, a wilting, or wariness.  “Oh no,” you can practically hear them thinking.  “We’re going there again.”

And my wife and I laugh about it afterward.  You get it, right? So often we’ve been the defensive ones, either avoiding the topic altogether, or passing off our beliefs with a quick, casual acknowledgment and then turning the talk in another direction, or (sigh) girding ourselves to explain, justify, account yet again for our non-mainstream practices and events and perspectives.  The lesson for us continues to be this: if the opportunity opens up, find a way to talk about day-to-day benefits rather than beliefs, seek the common ground we all know from living on this planet, demonstrate it as a part of our lives, which they do care about. Then move on.  Build trust, keep the lines of communication open, share your vulnerability and — as needed — shut up.  You know:  basic relationship stuff.

On our recent car trip, which I’ve touched on in the last several posts, we managed to reconnect with colleagues from over 25 years ago, a couple I worked with during my year of teaching in Changsha in the People’s Republic of China in the late 80s.  We’d fallen out of touch: the first of their three children arrived, three of the four of us were back in school, several of us were patching together jobs out of already unconventional work histories, and both of our families moved at least a couple of times to accomplish these things.

IMG_0879We joked about our reunion later, over a dinner of home-made jiaozi.  Making and eating them had become a lovely family tradition for them after China. The four of us and their youngest daughter, now 19, stood around their dining room table, filling and wrapping and talking, brushing the jiaozi wrappers with the cornstarch-water mix to seal them, then watching as the plump crescent dumplings steamed. Earlier we’d met for lunch in a restaurant, in case any of us had become raving loonies in the interim, and a convenient escape was needed.  Eight hours later, we all knew we had nothing to fear.  And the best demonstration, in the moment, of spirituality in all of our lives?  Friendship, hospitality, a shared meal, simple pleasure in each other’s company.  A touch of nostalgia didn’t hurt either.

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Image of jiaozi steaming: me. Actual kitchen, steamers, stove, etc., courtesy of S. T.

Edited: 2 Aug. 2014

The Beach of Consciousness   Leave a comment

The challenge:  to write a coherent and meaningful post in about an hour — before I’m out the door and off to another commitment during a particularly busy couple of weeks — without a topic already in mind.  What will get tossed up on the beach of consciousness?  The trick is to keep writing, trusting that something will come.  Ah, there it is: trust.

I trusted the presence of Skaði sufficiently to create a separate shrine-page for her, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago.  To ask whether I believe in her feels like it misses the point: she appeared in my consciousness, amenable for an exchange.  I made a choice to engage, she honored her part, and I mine.  What’s interesting to me is that we would never ask a similar question about a human-human interaction.  Do I “believe” in the shop-clerk who sold me a sandwich at the cafe where my wife and I had lunch yesterday?  The question never arises.  What do our interactions imply for the future, in the case of either shop clerk or goddess?  That’s something we’ll negotiate as we go.  From what I can tell, none of us would have it any other way.  If I patronize the shop regularly enough, the clerk and I may learn each other’s names, we might make small talk, I might eventually come to have a “usual” that I predictably order, and so on.  With the goddess, the terms might be similar:  future interactions will build a history between us.  With that kind of growing trust, is belief necessary?

Trust is a curious thing.  Like water or mustard or fire, too much or not enough suggests there’s a happy middle ground.  Trust is also earned:  babies may come by it naturally, and the other blessed innocents of the world may not yet have had it betrayed out of them, but usually ya gotta deserve it to get it.  I trust the sanity of the clerk not to poison the food the shop sells, and Skaði and I trust each other enough at this point to fulfill any exchanges we have agreed on.  Liking may enter the relationship down the road, which may broaden outside the immediate context of simple exchange if both parties are willing.  But that’s not a given.  Right now we have a starting point — that’s all.

Other kinds of trust operate at deeper levels.  There’s a kind of trust, after all, every time you open door of your room, your apartment, your house, when you step outdoors on a sunny today like today is shaping into, a trust that the air is breathable, that the universe, at least in the foreseeable future, is not out to kill you — that it might even cooperate with you long enough that you can accomplish something worthwhile.  If you’re fortunate enough, aware enough, lucky enough, or just attentive enough, you might even call it love. I’ll close with Kathleen Raine‘s fine poem “The Marriage of Psyche,” written 60 years ago now, in 1952.  It feels like it fits here — the sense of amazement, of wonder at beauty that lifts you out of yourself.  A gift.  Read it to yourself out loud, to hear its rhythms.

He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water
Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea,
He has married me with a ring of light, the glitter
Broadcast on the swift river.
He has married me with the sun’s circle
Too dazzling to see, traced in summer sky.
He has crowned me with the wreath of white cloud
That gathers on the snowy summit of the mountain,
Ringed me round with the world-circling wind,
Bound me to the whirlwind’s centre.
He has married me with the orbit of the moon
And with the boundless circle of stars,
With the orbits that measure years, months, days, and nights,
Set the tides flowing,
Command the winds to travel or be at rest.

At the ring’s centre,
Spirit, or angel troubling the pool,
Causality not in nature,
Finger’s touch that summons at a point, a moment
Stars and planets, life and light
Or gathers cloud about an apex of cold,
Transcendent touch of love summons my world into being.

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Updated 25 May 2014: next to last line of Raine’s poem corrected from “gold” to “cold.”

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