|Clump of wood, Isca Marina Beach, June 2012|
Just above, I have said that I am the recipient of the gift of silence. And gift –“donum” as they call it in Latin – is one of the most powerful words we can use spiritually. We experience life as a “given” or as a “gift,” as something we have no real control over – either in its coming or in its going, in its growing or in its passing away. And, it is only when you reflect on your life in the silence of your own Heart or Soul that you know this, or learn in absolute humility to accept the bounty of life over which you have no absolute control, though we often like to fool ourselves with our technologies of all types that we have some. However, the wonderful Anglican Divine and Poet, John Donne, had an answer to this egotistical hubris of humankind when he stated in one of his sermons that we should not ever ask for whom the bell tolls, for, verily, it tolls for us. Our mortality is at once, then, our greatest strength and our greatest weakness which takes most of us almost a lifetime to accept.
Indeed, one does not have to be a monk or a nun, a Christian or a Buddhist to know this. One can be a believer of any hue or none, indeed, to learn to appreciate the sheer gift and bounty that life is. Moreover, you can either learn this lesson positively or negatively, but learn it you will. As I sit here now in the silence of my little Calabrian sanctuary I am learning it positively by being open to the gift that all life is to me and for me. There were times when I encountered the gift negatively, that is, in all those times when I experienced loss, when little or indeed big things were taken away from me – the death of my father, the loss of a job, the disappointment in not getting promotion, the dissolution of a relationship, the slow dissipation of strength as I age, the odd bout of ill-health. All these very negative things subtract much from life and sometimes they can bring us down into the very pits and dungeons of dread and despair.
Then, thankfully, there are these moments of small silence as I call them, moments of sheer blessedness when one’s Heart almost sings for joy at the sheer giftedness and bounty of life. As I say, this is where even an atheist can pray. Spirituality is a most human thing, and in its sheer depths and heights, in it lengths and breadths, there are those who call it divine. And, I say, “why not call it such, if you so wish?” because once I felt like that, too. But for this solitary pilgrim, this word “divine” is a metaphor for the heights and depths of humanity at its best. Religion, uncoupled from the energising power of spirituality, is a frightful thing indeed. Uncoupled from spirituality, whose fruits are faith (faithfulness), hope (hopefulness) and of course, love (lovingness), religion descends into what its worst critics like Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens would have it – a veritable and unique source of evil in the world. Unhitched from spirituality, religion becomes at best a tawdry and bankrupt, if arcane, system of rules, and at worst a corruption of truth in the pursuit of temporal power in the guise of the divine.
|One of the local bars/restaurants in Isca Marina|