Getting Religion

It is inescapable especially to the Christian observer that the arrival of Spring is about more than the awakening of the seeds in the ground. It is also about rekindling the fires of religion within one’s mind, or should I say within one’s heart. The debate about the intuition or rationality of religion is never ending, all the more so at a time when it is fashionable to blame religion for all the world’s problems. To an increasingly educated society it is considered lower class (perhaps enshrined by Karl Marx’ conjunction of religion and the masses) to adopt traditional religious models. Moreover as the world’s religions are thrown progressively into the face of one another, it seems just plain unfair to suggest that one man’s god is better than another and thus to reject them all. However as someone who has had a blocked heart and lived to tell the tale, I am not as clear about the rejection of some of the possibilities of religion. I don’t for a minute suggest that my survival was a religious experience (it was purely medical), but it reminds me of the importance of matters of the heart and the free flow of the cardiovascular system. Sometimes one’s heart can be blocked by more than material matter.

Lately I have reflected often and hard upon the subject of instinct which quite frankly I have elevated to a very high rank. Instinct among other things is that element in us all which is inextricably connected to our animal nature and for that reason alone cannot be ignored. It is instinct which so often sends an animal fleeing from danger, not the slower more rational formulation of the cause of alarm. Instinct combines the five senses into one very responsive warning system even without our knowing how all the wires connect. Yet however important instinct may be as a survival technique or other tool of living, it is not directed to the loftier matters of the heart and certainly has little to do with otherworldliness.

One often hears people excuse their apparent lack of religious fervor by saying that they object to organized religion as though that somehow leaves the door open to other religious experiences. Having dropped out of institutionalized religion myself, I suppose I am among that crowd of bystanders. As much as I was once involved in organized religion, I have to admit that my religious events seldom if ever took place within that context. Rather my communications were almost exclusively private and without the chapel. There is no doubt, however, that the formal religious structure did in part buoy the private experience. Having said that, it is equally true that as one allows new and unstructured religious occurrences to creep back into one’s life, the conviction of both their spiritual probability and necessity becomes more apparent.

Likely each of us has a castle in the sky, whatever it may be. While there is nothing wrong in seeking to find that special place for one’s soul, it is important not to deceive oneself about where it is to be found. It is after all possible to crown the head of an imaginary god, even if only by taradiddle. Harmless prevarication may yet have its devastating consequences. To blind oneself to the realities is ultimate disaster. Chances are none of us is intent upon such disaster, but by default we allow ourselves to be swept up in the fall-back situation. Not surprisingly, it is this very sense of uncontrolled destiny which nurtures one’s need for deeper meaning.

I have lately found myself hearkening back to those small voices in my past by which I mixed the head, heart, body and soul to communicate with a power beyond. Even if the object of the communication is nothing more than another level of human experience, it nonetheless qualifies in my books as something approaching religion. Our experience of life is not confined to the products of our traditional five senses. We have, for example, the additional sense of time and of direction, not to mention pain, balance and temperature. Yet the religious experience seems to thrive best when connected to something beyond our corporeal limits. Again, it may be nothing more than a fiction to create such an object of communication, but it nonetheless seems to facilitate the value of the experience. In the end, it may all be nothing more than meditation and introspection. Sometimes these little fires within us need a breath of fresh air to get them going again.