Managing the Spiritual Stumbling Step: A journey with and without a Bicycle
I can only speak to what I know. Born in 1947 in the Midwest of the United States of America I can only speak to the concept of the spiritual. It has been dismal. Devout Christians founded this landscape, fleeing religious prosecution in Europe. These same people then turned on women who were thought to be witches with the ability to control the outcome of life by cheating in the spiritual realm; literally taking power that rightly belonged to God. These women were burned to death. Life on the Northern Continent did quiet down after a while. Why? Children were taught early on not only is it better to be seen than heard, when you were heard, do not speak of religion or politics. Fights would insure over differences of opinion on either of these topics. This was a land that had very little tolerance for individuals with different spiritual concepts. The landscape began to change in the mid 60’s with the great ecumenical movement. Catholic and Protestant Churches began to exchange pulpits and pot luck suppers in a hand across the divide attempt to make peace. We searched for our common concepts like; we all believe in the same God and the Baby Jesus at Christmas. The Jews were late invites to this ‘love fest’, Their God was the same but the stumbling stone was Jesus. For the Jew, he just didn’t cut the mustard as a savior of all of mankind. Muslims were never understood and never invited. Wickens? They still had embers in their shoes from the burning incidents with the pilgrims. The The Lucksters and Hipsters? They just walked around with their hands in their pockets, whistling a tune about not hurting anyone. Horoscope readers? Excluded. Gypsy palm readers with crystal balls? Relegated to the carnival but certainly not invited to the Sunday feast. The great ecumenical movement was probably nothing more than words; in the end though, it did move people in the direction of common “good will” projects. Still, even the smallest New England town is as likely to have as many different churches as bars; though there are exceptions where the count is reversed. OK, so most of us on this continent were raised with the concept of a God and some way to get him to pay attention to us as individuals. Except of course if you were some kind of ‘fringe person’, like a women who wanted to be ordained or a homosexual who wanted communion and marriage, or a couple in hard time who wanted divorce, or a Priest or Nun who wanted a marital relationship with another human being. The great wars between the religious liberals and the religious conservatives fought in temple, in sanctuary, in court room and in legislatures; all with the same evidence- the Bible; citing different interpretations. The God of our country, the God in whom we trusted our money, the God of our civil religion was not keen on differences and preferred a spiritual landscape that mirrored our social landscape; subdivisions of 150 identical houses, office complexes with identical facades and cubicles, shopping malls indistinguishable from one another and a highway system to connect all the pieces rocketing us hither and fro in identically shaped and horse powered automobiles. Then disaster hit; the Beat Generation took to the road with Jack Kerouac on a quest for the holy grail of individuality. Simultaneously Priests were sexually exploiting the children in their care. The spiritual landscape began to resemble a scorched earth pock-marked with creators after a bombing run. It is no wonder that we have become a culture suspicious of our gods, taking control in areas that were ones theirs, hurling our species into space to conquer that final frontier; the control of our own destiny. Physically we live in a The Geography of Nowhere and spiritually God has been declared dead and we live in the spirituality of nowhere.
In spite of this, we all have a concept of the spiritual, we all believe!
Every man, women and child has a concept of the spiritual and they have incorporated this into their view of the world, how they will behave within that world. An individual’s concept of the spiritual may be as specific as a belief in God or as diffuse as a belief in a higher power, luck, karma, fate, the daily horoscope or intelligent design. The individual may also ascribe vengeance and hate, indifference or benevolence and love within the concept of the spiritual. My conversations with individuals have a twofold purpose, to assist the individual in identifying their own concept of the spiritual and then guide them to a position where their beliefs produce helpful, purposeful actions.
Can you see this in action? Sure you can, every bingo night at any Catholic Church. The players have all confessed to Jesus Christ as their lord and Savior. They believe in the holy trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. These people believe in a beneficent God and they can control their afterlife destiny through confession and atonement. BUT on bingo night their guiding concept of the spiritual is “LUCK. Each player will have token to promote good luck poised as if to control the fall of the numbered balls. When a player wins, they thank their lucky stars. Too many losses and a player will become vindictive and invoke a hex for bad luck to befall those who have won, especially a multiple winner who is suspected of controlling the fall of the numbered ball through some evil manipulation of luck. My purpose is not to make these people look silly or hypocritical; it is to illustrate the powerful behavior generator our concept of the spiritual can become. Athletes ‘cross’ themselves before a competition! Some ask only for the safety of all the athletes’ while others ask for personal victory. Does God have a stake in the outcome of an athletic contest? Be honest with yourself; don’t you want your concept of the spiritual to have a stake in the outcome of your day? We do want our personal spirituality to give use a measure of control in our lives.
We are spiritual, and we will continue to be spiritual. No matter what concept of the spiritual is ours, it was chosen! So I beg the question; “Why not make a conscious choice and have a concept of the spiritual that is helpful to you?” You cannot be proven wrong, and only the living of your life can prove you right. Right and wrong may not even be the best way to describe the consequences of your choice. You might better think in terms of effective and ineffective. Is your concept of the spiritual effective in your life? Then stick with it!
Making It Work
Without a doubt, mostly because of 12 step self help programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr has become the most popular and understandable to connect a concept of the spiritual with the daily life that often includes just one damn problem after another
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things a cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Niebuhr was a Christian theologian and his concept of the spiritual was Christian; God the father and Jesus the son, savior of all of human kind. This does not matter because we are referencing YOUR concept of the spiritual so we are allowed to make some substitutions. Luck is the most widely use concept of the spiritual, so let’s do some substitutions;
Change “Taking, as He did, this sinful world… to Taking as luck would have it, this unlucky world….”
Change “Trusting that He will make all things right… to Trusting that luck will be with me.
Change “That if I surrender to His will… to that if I trust that luck will turn up what’s best for me….
Change “supremely happy with Him Forever in the next (life)… to that good luck may follow me beyond the grave….
Your concept of the spiritual is portable and does not need to be bound by any other concept, religion, or complete lack of religion. The rub however is, that if you want to live your life in a state of harmony, where your concept of the spiritual matches your actions, then you must come to grips with spiritual principals.
There Had To Be A Catch!
It’s not enough to have a concept of the spiritual; that concept must connect to a lifestyle of action that reflects your concept of spirituality. Your life must be lived day by day, side by side with the spiritual principles
10. Unconditional love
17. Sharing and caring
25. Positive thinking
My Own Construct of the Spiritual: At Journeys End
So it would not be fair for me to with hold my on construct of the spiritual, so here goes;
1. I am not God. There is something else that controls life either through creation with build in consequences or through intervention.
2. The Profits, Jesus and Disciples did exist and told stories/ shared experiences as they understood them to be true.
3. Actions and Life have built in consequences and I am required to live life on life’s terms.
4. There are only 2 types of problems; one is the problem that has solutions while the other is the problem without solutions. My job is to accept and take action on the solutions where they are present and survive where it is necessary.
5. I can created and influence my own happiness by learning from my own experiences and the experiences of others. This has already taught me that my life works out better when I follow spiritual principles.
6. I do not know what follows life.
7. My own version of the Serenity Prayer:
The ACTION-ists Prayer
Grant me the strength to survive my problems that have no solutions.
Grant me the willingness to solve those problems that do have a solution.
Grant me the knowledge of my own experience and the experiences of others, that I will identify the difference.
And, help me extinguish my desire to indulge my inabilities, and help me nurture my abilities that my actions may be positive throughout my day.
Spiritual Cycling: Road side Redeemer of cast off bottle and cans
I’ve seen a bumper sticker, which I am going to suppose is really a bicycle fender sticker which read: “I Do My Best Thinking on Two Wheels”. I cannot ague with this sentiment because I have done a lot of good thinking while I was on a bicycle. There is something missing though and I believe it is the concept of the spiritual, at least my concept of the spiritual; because that concept has been both developed and tested on two wheels.
This is no advantage in trying to ‘snob’ me in the direction of one segment of the cycling community at the expense of another. In my travels these are the varied communities I’ve seen:
The Lycra Racers
Utility Cyclists running errands
Lids on “Scrappers”
Commercial Business run out of a work-bicycle; usually with a save the planet idealism
Collectors with a garage full of bicycles
Minimalists- one bike, single speed hub
Alternative transporters- usually the result of a DWI or loss of driving
Family- either on separate bikes or Tandems
Eccentrics- decorated bikes or in the UK, ‘binners’
Advocates- alternative transportation, bike paths, well kelp roads
3rd world charities- ride for them or donate a bike
At one time or another I have been one or all of these and most of the time like an astrological Gemini or mental patient with multiple personality disorder; several of them all at once. Other than the bicycle, they all hold things in common; perhaps how they each work through these things is the real difference between each community. Wind, weather, hills, and surface conditions bind them all into a human community.