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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Reflections on Writing and Spirituality

For a time last year, I lost my voice. Not the one that emerges from my mouth, sadly enough for those around me, but the one that emerges from my fingers. There were a number of reasons. I have learned, to cite but one reason, that I cannot be intentionally interesting but need to write from my heart and let the chips fall where they may. On my other blog at, I recently wrote two posts that were a bit edgy. I had stopped doing that, trying to be a kinder, gentler me. I have learned, however, that that I am better at truth than I am at placating the masses. When there is muddied thinking that is rising to popularity, I am better at cutting through the mud that I am at patting the muddied thinkers and pundits on their muddy little heads.

I also need to just write. That's a change for me. Creativity was something I had to wait for, and then when the labor pains began I would sit down and write. I am finding that has changed, and that there are things within me waiting to emerge - but I can't give other things priority. I need to get my coffee, sit down, and let it flow.

I have shared before that I used to think I wasn't creative because I am not much of an artist in the traditional sense. My stick figures are good enough, but beyond that I do much better at producing drawings that are designed to entertain by virtue of how bad they are. As you may have guessed from the first paragraph, I don't like playing in the mud so I am not a sculptor. My painting skills are best applied to the side of a house. One day I realized that I do things with words that was very creative, that I could weave a tapestry with my fingers aided by a keyboard or a pen. While I obviously write on a keyboard, I have found more heart and soul emerges from a pen because it takes longer. Writing slowly serves as a kind of nonsense filter, it's not so easy to just continue writing until something substantial springs forth. Maybe that's why journalism is virtually nonexistent these days. Even a typewriter took longer than a computer, and mistakes weren't so easily corrected. Instead of fingers gliding over a keyboard, a typewriter required fingers that would beat it into submission. Wasted keystrokes were unthinkable.

Perhaps my laryngitis of the hands is passing. It seems like many things have been in flux, including some spiritual ones. I saw a video recently about an experiment a man did by rigging a bicycle to turn left when the rider turned the handles to the right, and right when the rider turned the handles left. He then took the bike on his speaking engagements and offered people the opportunity to ride it. They couldn't. Even though they understood what they were to do, it turns out riding a bike is much more than knowledge. It makes sense if you think about it for a moment. We don't just turn the handlebars, we lean in the direction we are turning. As we come out of the turn we decrease our lean until we are going straight ahead again. Turning the handlebars to the left leads to leaning left, and when the bicycle tries to turn right there are going to be problems! This was an experiment in neuroplasticity. It took the experimenter eight weeks to learn to ride the "backwards" bike. Suddenly it clicked, but guess what? Then he couldn't ride a normal bike. It took his son, who had just learned to ride a bicycle, only two weeks to learn to ride the modified bike, suggesting that young people have more neuro-flexibility that adults. We knew that already from teaching foreign languages to children.

There are spiritual implications to this, I believe, and they lie in our religious traditions of origin. Those of us who were raised in a tradition will have a harder time looking outside of it for parallels and other perspectives. Those of us who were raised only marginally within a tradition will have an easier time, and those raised in no tradition at all will have the easiest time of all. However, it stands to reason that when we practice in a tradition for a period of time we will start to become less flexible. That's not a bad thing, it's a normal thing, but it means that it will take us longer to adapt to other points of view. I believe that when we become accustomed to looking at other points of view it does get easier. Each new point of view we consider doesn't represent starting from zero, but rather we build a flexibility.

So what, you say? So, you probably aren't going to convince someone who has been a Methodist all their life and is now seventy-five years old to become Interspiritual. You might, but it's going to be a struggle and take a long time unless they have had some experience that leads them to question their Methodist perspective. That's perfectly fine, because the idea of evangelizing should feel like the anathema it is to an Interspiritual perspective. Our job is much more creative because our job is to explore what is out there and search for all the places where we find truth. We don't seek to tell others what their truth should be, we seek to dialogue about what truth might be. We don't feel the need to be perfect or to get everything right, we seek honest exchange of ideas and practices. We don't look to get locked in to one view, we seek to walk in different views in search of Truth. I believe it's the most creative spiritual environment available to us today, and that creativity will teach us much. Or we can go back to being spoon fed by an authority figure. As for me, I just can't go back.

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