The Hungry Spirit
As 2000 came to a close, Religion and Ethics reporter Michael Valpy
went in search of spirituality in a post-modern age.
We are pilgrims travelling myriad paths to a new, postmodern spirituality. With the undermining of mainstream 20th-century religion and the rejection of the notion that science can reveal all mysteries, people are seeking 'an altered sense of the sacred.' (Dec. 23)
Pamela Heighway has religious memory. That apart -- and it is a big distinction -- she largely fits the spiritual profile of her fellow five million Generation-X Canadians.
Ms. Heighway, a 26-year-old kindergarten teacher in Parry Sound, Ont., knows matter-of-factly that attention to the spirit is necessary for a whole life, for the finished self.
She has read the mystics of the great faiths, has a sophisticated understanding of prayer, an intense curiosity about sacred texts and an appreciation that the true spiritual life involves rigorous seeking, a disciplined quest, for harmony with all Creation and thus with God. (Dec. 26)
On a sparkling, sunny day, Marianne Karsh leads a group out the door of a Franciscan spiritual retreat in the Caledon Hills north of Toronto.
Gesturing to the picture-postcard meadows, the woods, a stream, a pond enclosed by willows, she tells them: "Go and find your home." Which they set off to do, disappearing down trails, vanishing into the trees, climbing hills.
Ms. Karsh, a trained forester, is conducting a workshop on the spirituality of Creation. She believes that trees are creatures that, within the limits of their treeness, have will, volition and selfhood. (Dec. 27)
Marley's Ghost, materializing before Scrooge's eyes to warn him to abandon his mean and grasping ways, observes: "You don't believe in me. Why do you doubt your senses?"
"Because," Scrooge replies, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
Thus in A Christmas Carol does Charles Dickens foreshadow by a century and a half today's raging debate in medicine, psychology and religion over the
relationship of mind and spirit to the body, the nature of illness, Enlightenment science, transcendental thought and the ancient, archetypal healing narratives of a feminine Creation deity. (Dec. 28)
I come to my spiritual path. I think it is not possible to inquire into spirituality without examining my own. It appropriately begins uphill. So much about spirituality is metaphor. (Dec. 29)