Friday, August 1, 2014

A Solid Foundation

One of my favorite writers, Richard Rohr, has a daily column in which he meditates on life and spiritual ways to live life.  Those meditations are fairly short.  I enjoy looking at them and seeing how his mind thinks about these kinds of things.  Obviously it is a bit similar to what I do in these reflections, but mine are longer.  Maybe I should take a cue from him!
Of course, it would be easier to write something short---maybe a paragraph or two.  But I would miss the chance to ponder issues a little longer and to develop my thoughts a little further.  It is a spiritual discipline for me.  And for those who read it, I hope it is a form of spiritual discipline for you, too.
In one of his recent pieces Rohr had a sentence that caught my attention.  This is the kind of kernel of wisdom I look for and on which I have a chance to ruminate.  I like the word, ruminate.  It comes from the Latin word, ruminatus.  That Latin word means to chew the cud.  One thinks of cows or other animals here.  Maybe it is because I grew up on a dairy farm that makes this a favorite metaphor.  I have many memories of watching the cows chomp away on their cud.  They always looked very much at peace and at ease.  To ruminate, then, means to turn something over in your mind---slowly and attentively. 
This is what Rohr’s sentence did for me.  Rohr’s sentence says, “You cannot build any serious spiritual house if you do not first find something solid and foundational to build on---inside yourself.”  I suppose it is because I had a couple good English teachers when I was in school that accounts for the fact that I like to diagram and dissect sentences.  For example, the subject of this sentence is “house.”  And that noun has a couple interesting modifiers, namely “serious” and “spiritual.”   A serious spiritual house is a compelling metaphor for the religious life.  It is not one I might have come up with, but I like it.
I know it is a metaphor because Rohr talks about building that serious spiritual house “inside yourself.”  That reminds me of the famous sixteenth century saint and monastic, Teresa of Avila.  That Spanish mystic wrote a work that appears as a book in English with the title, The Interior Castle.  She uses this more medieval image to describe where and how we find God---the God within.  Teresa has seven dwelling rooms in this interior castle. 
For Teresa the spiritual journey is a journey inwardly.  We move through and into the castle room by room.  There in the center of the castle is the Divinity Itself.  Living our normal lives means most of us are living outside the interior castle---unaware of the castle, much less the God within.
I know Richard Rohr is very familiar with Teresa of Avila.  Perhaps he has her in mind when he wrote that sentence.  In many ways his approach is more modern and, therefore, more relevant.  Rohr also makes another significant shift.  He suggests that we “build” this serious spiritual house.  Teresa’s approach was more like a discovery.  We don’t build that castle; we discover it and then enter it. 

I like both images: fabricating (or making) the house and discovering (or finding) the castle.  Maybe these represent two different spiritual approaches.  In some cases we need to be builders.  In other cases we need to be explorers and discoverers.  They both require a certain amount of energy, but it is different kind of energy.  When I think about myself this day, I conclude I am more into the builder-phase.  Perhaps that is why Rohr’s sentence caught my eye.
But it was at this point I had to laugh.  Inside his sentence about building this spiritual house, Rohr also makes use of the mode of finding.  Pay attention to the sentence as we continue to dissect it.  In order to build this serious spiritual house within ourselves, Rohr says we need to “find something solid and foundational to build on.”  Pursuing the metaphor a bit further, I realize Rohr is telling us that the finding mode precedes the building mode.  And that makes perfect sense.
We all know we will have to build our own serious spiritual house.  And we know that we will build it inside ourselves.  I can’t build yours and you cannot build my spiritual house.  I am sure, however, we can help each other.           

Perhaps one of the key ways we can help each other is to look together for that solid and foundational place to build our spiritual house.  Perhaps one key way we do that for each other is to get to know each other well enough that we can let each other into our inner places.  For example, I think I am dependable.  If you can affirm that, I believe I have found a solid and foundational place to start construction.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ego and Self

The thing that amazes me the most in this discipline of writing some spiritual reflection is where I get the ideas.  Sometimes I have to struggle to get an idea, but with some perseverance, I can get one.  More often than not, something happens and, boom, the idea pops into my head.  Such was the idea for this entry.  The idea came immediately, but the title came only with some reflection.

Oddly enough, the idea came when a car turned the corner in front of me.  I was out for a walk in the wonderful Metropark that is close to my campus.  It is a tree-lined, fairly wide path that goes for miles.  Where I join it, it passes a couple lakes.  There is some traffic on the adjoining road, but for the runners, walkers and bikers, the cars are a secondary distraction.  Most of us are enjoying the beauty of nature.

As I approached the corner where the Metropark leads me back to the street, I heard a car coming, so I stopped.  Quickly this white car comes to the corner and turns almost recklessly on to the Metropark road.  As the car sped by, I noticed the driver was a rather young guy.  I also noticed the car was a really nice Mustang—a pretty sporty car.  As he rounded the corner, he hit the gas and the motor roared.  Within seconds I am sure he was well above the speed limit.  The car oozed sounds of power, etc.

I laughed at myself.  Immediately, I felt sixteen years old and could imagine that being my car.  It was all masculine---power, might, almost a kind of arrogance.  Since I am not sixteen any more, I really don’t want that kind of a car.  I did not judge the guy.  In another world, that would be me if I could manage it.  There was nothing wrong with it.  And it did give me an idea and caused me to begin pondering.

I have often thought that things like cars can be one way we express ourselves.  I know if I had that sporty, white Mustang, I would be making a statement about myself!  That’s when it hit me.  I am not an expert psychologist by any means, but I do like to make a distinction between ego and self.  I understand ego in the sense of its Greek meaning.  I know ego literally is a Greek word.  I could write it in Greek, but then in English you would spell it: ego!  It translates as “I.”  So ego is “I.”  It is myself knowing what I want.

Self, on the other hand, is a deeper, more spiritual person that I really am.  As I am understanding it, self is not superficial.  If I can distinguish ego and self, I would say the ego says “I want” and the self says, “I am willing.”  Let’s go back to the Mustang to explain it further.

I think the guy’s Mustang was an expression of his ego.  Effectively, he is saying, “I am a Mustang!”  In this case ego is bold, powerful, fancier than most other cars, etc.  That’s how he wants to feel about himself.  Again, this is not bad; it is not too deep and, likely, not very spiritual.  But it was where I was at sixteen!

Ego is not bad, but it is often fairly superficial.  Ego can never be our true self.  Ego can never be the real me.  In this sense, ego is not wrong or bad; it is just not true---at least, deeply true.  Down deep, the guy knows he is not a Mustang, but he wants to be!  Again, I don’t blame him.  While I know that my ego is not lusting after a big, powerful car, my ego can want other things that are just as much a sign of egocentric perspective.

Egos get lived out in clothes, as well as cars.  Egos get lived out in sports and all sorts of other ways.  It is always well to know how easily ego links to egocentric---that which “I” am centered upon.  It usually is putting an image out there that we want to be and we hope others perceive us to be.   It is not bad; it is often just false.  As long as we live out of our ego, we usually are not very aware of our self.

The self is deeper and usually more subtle.  The self is who we really are---at our core.  Our self is unique.  The spiritual journey can be understood as our quest to come to know our true self and, then, to live from that core or center.  When we know and live from that center, we would never think, “I am a Mustang.” 

As I understand the self from a spiritual perspective, our discovery of our true self will simultaneously be to discover the Holy One.  The self is the person God imagines us to be---or to become if we are not there yet.  This deeper, true self is the place where real love and compassion are possible.  The self is not competitive, but collaborates in the building of a better world.

When we are in touch with this deeper self, we both tend to know who we are, but we are also aware of and sensitive to others.  This is why the “I want” of the ego shifts to “I am willing.”  The self is willing to help, care, laugh and cry with others.  The self shows up instead of showing off.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Post-Human World

I have a newer friend whom I am growing to appreciate.  By newer, I mean that I met him within the last couple years, so the relationship is young.  On top of that, Glenn lives in Australia!  So far, I have never visited Australia, so that means we have not met on his turf.  I met him a couple years ago at a conference.  We both had written papers and were paired to present in a session of the conference.  We took a liking to each other and a budding relationship began.

Glenn is an Anglican priest.  Much of his ministry is done as a chaplain in an Anglican school in Australia.  Essentially, he is working with high school students.  When I met him, I could understand why he was involved in this ministry.  Even though he must be in his 50s, he has a boyish look and certainly spirit.   It was easy to imagine him being the ringleader for a bunch of guys doing things that pushed the boundary of fun and acceptability. 

I recently read a little paper he wrote and found myself intrigued and challenged by his thoughts.  The title of the piece was inviting: “To Be or Not To Be: Identity Formation in a Post-Human World.”  Clearly the first part of the title shows him playing around with the famous words from Shakespeare. The focus on identity formation interests me because I give some focus to that in my own college teaching.  The traditional college age student predictably is going through a kind of identity transition.  Many of them are transitioning from the son or daughter who lives in the parents’ home.  At college, they are on their own---some of them for the first time in their lives.  They are now more free to become the person they want to be.

It was the last idea in Glenn’s title that challenged me.  Do I even know what a post-human world means?  I have heard of a post-Christian world and charges that America is now post-Christian.  While this is debatable, I know the debate is whether our country is functionally Christian any more?  Clearly, our country was for much of our history.  But post-human, that was a new one for me.

I get a clue what Glenn is up to when I got into some of the details of the article.  He claims, “It appears we have entered into the ever-changing, ever-challenging world of the post-human and post-humanism.  The world of the human and humanism was understood as the place where human beings were recognized as the pinnacle of all creation, the finest and most perfect of all beings.”  This description fits very well the impression I took from my Sunday school days.  Humans were the top dogs of the created world.  In some real sense, humans were the reason the world was created.

The post-human world understands humans have a place in the world, but we are not top dogs.  We are just part of a larger picture.  Glenn also adds the emphasis upon technology as a shaper of identity.  In fact, he argues, technology is creating worlds most of us have no clue how to navigate.  But often the younger ones do know how to navigate these new worlds.  Are they becoming different kinds of people---having a different kind of identity than those of us who are more pre-techies?

I do think there is something to this. I have read some studies that suggest people who spend ample time on computers playing games, etc. so seem to have their brains wired a little differently.  It also seems true that some folks who are electronically addicted spend much less time in personal interaction.  Sitting in a coffee shop having a conversation is not the same as relating to others via Twitter or Facebook.

Put simply, I think it can be argued that how we are with each other determines in part who we are.  This does have implications for understanding humans in spiritual terms.  And specifically, those of us who take seriously the biblical account that human beings are children of God may have to think about this in new ways.

I join the chorus of spiritual people who want to affirm that humans are created in the image of God.  Of course, I don’t take that literally.  God does not look like me.  The image of God in which I am created is spiritual; it is invisible.  But I do make that image visible in the ways of love and act.  In the old days that would have been called the godly life.

The way I connect this to Glenn’s idea that we now live in a post-human world is not to assume we are not humans any longer.  We have not become sub-human.  What is at stake is our sense of being humans in a bigger world and universe than we ever were able to conceive.  Humans have not been demoted.  We simply have been put in our place.

I covet the idea that I am created in the image of God.  Frankly I don’t care whether I am the center of the universe or if I am marginal and at the edge of the picture.  My goal is not to be king of the world.  My hope is to be a member of the kingdom of God.  If I can become a kingdom-participant, I will have fulfilled God’s dream for me: to have become a child of God. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hush Little Soul

Recently I have become aware again of something I probably have known for a long time.  Perhaps I have even known it my whole lifetime!  It is not a dramatic knowing, but it is healthy and can be healing.  What more can we ask?  Put simply, I became aware again of what I would call the simple soulfulness of quiet and aloneness.  I can put more fancy spiritual terminology to this, but the simplicity is sufficient for now.

I like to be engaged in my work.  I like being with people.  I know my life still borders on the too-busy end of the spectrum.  Even though I am getting older, I wonder whether I am any wiser?  I know more than I execute.  Ignorance often is not the problem.  I know enough to grow spiritually, but frequently my stupidity blunts the process.  So I find myself in the same place year after year.  It is not a disaster, but there is a mountain yet to climb.  I still like the metaphor of mountain when thinking about spirituality.  In many ways, I still am a flat-lander!

Most of what I do is good stuff.  I help people.  I have fun doing what I do.  There is virtually no complaint coming out of my heart.  I am always tempted by the “more.”  Perhaps this is the general sickness of America.  From the get-go we are taught to go for “more.”  This is not inherently bad; it certainly is not evil.  But it can drain the soul.  Paradoxically, in soulful terms, “more” is often like the desert.  We are tempted to see “more” in lush terms, when in fact, it is desert. 

Going for more usually takes more from us.  It takes more time, more energy, more everything.  Frequently that leaves less for our real, deeper, true self.  Instead of nurturing that true self, we deplete it because we have no time, no energy, no nothing.  Too often, we awake to discover that we have “more” and are feeling less fulfilled, less whole.  Spirituality almost always turns out to be oddly true.  It is true---but it is oddly true.

No doubt, this was the opening for recently becoming aware again of what I have known for a long time.  It is as if I have to learn all over again the soulful necessity of being quiet and alone.  The more normal spiritual terms for these are silence and solitude.  I like these words, but sometimes I need a different vocabulary.  So today I prefer quiet and alone. 

I know the word, quiet, comes from the Latin word, quies.  Obviously it shows us our English word.  But I like some of the other translations, which give me even more spiritual depth.  Quies also means “rest, relaxation, recreation and peace.”  These are all very good words for me to give focus.  But spiritually speaking, they have to become more than simply words or interesting ideas.  The spiritual trick is to take the idea and incorporate it into one’s actual life.

Physically everyone knows the need for rest.  Most of us go to bed at night in order to get rest.  Our busy lives need rest from activity---from involvement.  Relaxation is a different version of rest.  To relax is typically an antidote to the seriousness and, sometimes, stress we often find in our lives.  These kinds of issues can be problems for people even when they have left the work world. 

I have always liked the idea of recreation.  Of course, it can mean play; that’s what it meant when I was a kid.  Recreation was recess from classes!  Recreation was playing instead of working.  It was meant to be fun.  However, for too many of us recreation came to be a kind of alternative stress.  We played too hard.  We risked not having any fun at all.  That is when I needed to be reminded that recreation is really re-creation---to be created again and again.

Time alone has been as important to me as being quiet.  I don’t think that is simply because I am slightly introverted.  Time alone frequently is recreational for me.  It is rest and relaxation.  Spiritually speaking, being alone allows for time to meditate and to reflect.  I am absolutely sure being spiritual requires routine reflective time.  We need that time alone to ponder and to pray.  As quiet is recreative, so is alone time restorative. 

Thinking about this again reminds me that spiritually deep people know they need a regular, routine time to be quiet and be alone.  I know personally my life goes better if I have some of this on a daily basis.  Of course, it is difficult (or so I think) to have this as part of my daily discipline.  But that’s the rub.

If I think it is too difficult to build into my life, then I probably am losing touch with the soul nourishing care I most need to be the person I want to be.  When I forget, my soul begins to be rushed, stressed and out of whack like the rest of me.  It is at this very moment I want to remember, whisper, “hush little soul,” and re-engage life at the soulful level I most want.   

Monday, July 28, 2014

Open System - New Life

Sometimes I think I have this thing for monks and nuns!  I realize with all that’s going on in our world, that statement could get me in trouble!  Minimally, it sounds fishy.  But I mean it.  I am not sure exactly when it was that I met my first monk or nun.  I know it was not growing up through high school.  We barely had any Catholics in the rural area that I called home.  So it would be college time, at least.

There is not doubt my religious world expanded significantly in my college days.  I went to college in the south, so suddenly there were many Baptists in my life!  I also began to make friends with Episcopalians, Catholics and all their cousins who could teach this Quaker boy a thing or two about liturgy.  I made friends with Jews and knowingly made friends with Muslims.  My world was getting much bigger.

But I don’t remember meeting a monk or a nun.  However, I do remember reading about monks and, in fact, began reading some monks who wrote some important stuff in the early and medieval periods of Christian history.  I don’t think that I actually met a monk or nun until my graduate school days in Boston.  And that is where I went to my first monastery.  Maybe that is when I began to develop a thing for monks and nuns.

What I liked about them is the clear and deep commitment they had made.  They were living out their faith in a way that made my faith pilgrimage look like a kindergarten day trip!  I am sure I idealized their way of life.  I did not think I would follow suit and join a monastery.  Having a family makes that a tougher decision!  But I did want to learn from them.  And I have.

My most recent encounter with a monk or nun came through an article that I read.  A Franciscan nun, Illia Delio, was the focus of an article that I found fascinating.  “We are dying---and that’s OK,” is a pretty engaging opening sentence!  Those were the words Delio recently spoke to a gathering on nuns.  Immediately, it endeared me to her and that group of nuns---none of whom I know.  I figure only a group of nuns can hear words like that and be ok with it!

Most of us would hear the words, “we are dying,” and not be ok with it!  Delio followed up by saying, “It just means something new is emerging.  We need to become young again.”  The key is to understand she is not really talking about any particular individual.  She is talking about the group of nuns and, perhaps, even larger religious movements.  I can even think about my own Quaker tribe and our future.

The neat thing about Delio is she is a world-class scientist, as well as a nun.  This gives her knowledge and perspective I don’t have.  So I like what she says in the face of telling those nuns they are dying.  "If we attend only to the breakdown," Delio says, "we think we're over.  We see death.  But that's a closed-system way of thinking."  I understand closed thinking.  All too often this characterizes religious people.  We get the idea we have some answers, then we close off all thinking. 
That only makes us dangerous!  This kind of closed thinking can makes us judgmental.  It can lead to conflict and, sometimes, violence.  There is no life in this kind of thinking.  It does, indeed, lead to a kind of death.  Delio provides a wonderful alternative.  She calls it openness.  Listen to her words.   

"An open system has a capacity for newness.  New basins of attraction arise within the system and pull it, over time, in a new pattern of life.  So chaos really is a saving grace," she says, adapting the notion of chaos theory from physics.  I resonate with the idea of a capacity for newness.  This fits evolutionarily and, I think, it fits very well for spiritual development.  It is exciting to think our universe and all of us in the universe have a capacity for newness.  That is a great way to understand the work of God in our world.  God is graciously actualizing the newness in our lives. 

I find her writing style compelling.  She talks about new basins of attraction within our system.  Again, I translate this into spiritual terms.  I have been exposed to these basins when I encountered spiritually alive people and communities.  Some of these people and communities have been the monks and nuns I have met.  These new basins of attraction pull us into new patterns of life.  If this is a deep truth to life, then death and chaos can never be ultimate threats.

It is paradoxical to use a term like, “saving grace of chaos,” but it makes sense to me.  For a Christian, this is a perfect way to talk about the Resurrection. Through death comes life.  Chaos threatened order, but a new order emerged out of the mess of the crucifixion. That only makes sense in faith.  And I am sure that is where Illia Delio is coming from: faith.  An open system leading to new life.  Thanks to the nuns in my life.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Do Over

When we hear the phrase, “do over,” it probably conjures up some kind of mistake that we hope to rectify.  That happens to me often when I play golf.  I’ll hit a shot that goes astray and very much want a do over!  I am sure we can think of any number of times in our lives when we did something and either got a do over---or wished we could have one.  So it is not unusual to associate that phrase with negativity.

While that may be typical, it does not always have to be the case.  A do over can be anything we did once and, for whatever reason, we want to do it again.  I can think of many instances in which I sincerely wanted a do over.  Who would not want a do over of a very pleasant experience or a very positive outcome?

This came to my mind recently when I was gathering some information for a public presentation I have to make in a few weeks.  The topic given to me made me think of a book I read a few years ago.  The book by Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie, became a best seller.  Of course, Albom has written some other books since this book.  I do not recall when I first read Tuesdays.  I was a little surprised to discover that it was first published in 1997.  That probably means I read it last century!

It is a relatively short, easy to read book.  That does not mean it is superficial or not very worthwhile.  To the contrary.  I found it thoughtful and well written.  It offers good insights on life.  It was for this reason that I again turned to it.  I had a little difficulty finding it on my bookshelf.  I wanted my copy because I knew I had underlined it.  That meant I would find the nuggets faster and not have to read the whole thing as slowly as I must have the first time I read it.

Luckily I did find it and I was rewarded with the kind of gems I had remembered.  I must have realized the first time how spiritual it was.  This time through, that hit me again.  I had forgotten it had a subtitle.  One phrase in the subtitle says the book offers “life’s greatest lesson.”  I was surprised the word, lesson, was not plural---namely, lessons.  That made me ponder what Morrie (or Mitch) would consider life’s greatest lesson?

I think I could have guessed it, but was sure I found what Mitch would say on the first page of the text.  Albom begins the book in this way.  “The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week in his house…The class met on Tuesdays…The subject was The Meaning of Life.  It was taught from experience.”  The meaning of life; I knew it!

When anyone is talking about the meaning of life, that is spirituality in my understanding.  In fact, that is my chief way of describing spirituality or religion: they are ways humans make meaning.  I know, however, we cannot talk about meaning in life without identifying some specifics.  This is exactly what Albom does through his conversations with Morrie.  Let’s look at a few of them, since they still offer deep insight into what a good life is about.

I was drawn to a section near the end of the book.  Albom quotes Morrie, who says, “Once you get your fingers on the important questions, you can’t turn away from them.”  That is so true.  It is only by living the questions that we can be on the quest.  Our questions inform our quest for making a good life.  I like Morrie’s use of plural here: questions.

Morrie identifies four important questions, which make sense to me.  He says, “As I see it, they have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, awareness.”  Morrie then adds a touching note.  “And if I were healthy today, those (questions) would still be my issues.  They should have been all along.”  Clearly, that is a big take-away from the book:  Don’t wait.

Don’t wait until you are sick, suffering and in a bad place to think about life and the meaning of life.  Don’t squander too much time chasing things that ultimately won’t be what you want or not worth much.  I very much like Morrie’s quartet of questions having to do with love, responsibility, spirituality and awareness.  I wonder if this is the order Morrie put them in?

I am fine with love being first.  Probably for many of us who strive for a meaningful life, love does need to be a part of it.  After all, if God is love, that’s a good argument for love being #1.  Responsibility is an interesting, but apt choice.  No doubt, many of us have loved irresponsibly at times.  Responsibility is a good word for the discipline and accountability of a meaningful life.

It is a little surprising to see spirituality in the list of four questions.  It has been huge in my life, so I resonate with its central role.  Finally, awareness is a great choice.  I don’t know how we can have a life with meaning if we are sleepwalking through our lives.  In some ways, awareness is a necessity for the other three.  I am thankful that Albom again peaked my awareness.  It has been a great do over!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy Hour

Recently I went to a local restaurant, sports bar place with some friends.  It was late afternoon and the plan was to spend a little time together after work and in a different setting than the one in which we normally interact.  I enjoy these opportunities to be with some folks I like, but some of whom I barely know.  I especially appreciate the chance to get to know some people who work at the same place I do, but whom I never have the chance to see. 

I am always amazed to walk into one of these gatherings and see some faces and have no clue who they might be.  It’s a humbling experience, since I usually think I know most people who work at my institution.  Wrong!  I like the fact that getting to know and spend some time with people is the reason we are getting together.  Where we do it is not that important.  But I know food and drink often make the occasion more pleasant, so I am happy to participate.

When we go to this kind of place, it is usually Happy Hour.  For the most part, that means food and drinks are discounted.  That’s a good deal, since we plan to eat and drink anyway.  I know Happy Hours are designed to draw people to the restaurant before we might normally go if we wanted simply to have dinner.  I appreciate the economic rationale and don’t complain.  I go for fun and have food, too.

As I think about this from a spiritual perspective, I am intrigued by the designation that a particular hour (or two) can be happy.  I smile when I think some food establishment can rather arbitrarily (it seems to me) declare a particular hour to be “happy.”  I understand the intent and know their idea works economically.  But I am less sure it works spiritually.  Let me develop that a bit.

In the first place, the whole concept of time, as we use it, is a human invention.  Of course, we know that nature delivers days and nights.  And we know there is a daily rhythm to that---day comes, followed by night and then the next day.  But dividing a day into twenty-four hours is arbitrary.  I know the Egyptians are credited with dividing the day into the twenty-four hours.  And the Greeks systematized it by making each hour the same length.  But it was not until the fourteenth century in Europe that mechanical clocks were invented that basically gave us the system we use today.  I doubt those Europeans would have thought to make two of those hours “happy hours!”

Again, I certainly don’t want to be known as the person who is against happy hours!  In fact, I am very much for happy hours.  In fact, the problem with happy hours, as we normally understand them, is they are too short and too narrow.  If we spiritualize the happy hour notion, it becomes even more attractive.  Let’s proceed.

The key is how we understand happiness.  I grant that there is a range of happiness.  At the Happy Hour I was happy enough with a soft drink, a glass of wine, some potato chips and whatever.  But when I looked back hours later, did the memory of potato chips make me happy all over again?  Hardly!  Potato chip happiness is pretty superficial and, certainly, very temporary.  In fact, if I eat too many chips at Happy Hour, I am likely to become very unhappy!

At the other end of the happy spectrum, think of an hour you spend with your best friend or with grandkids.  Probably we are very happy in the moment.  And hours later, when we look back, it is typical to get a smile on our faces again.  We become happy all over again.  Now that truly is a happy hour!  I would count these kinds of experiences as spiritual experiences.

In my own case, I think of the hour I spend each week with a group called “Soul Work.”  Almost always it is a happy hour.  There is rich conversation.  There is a great deal of caring the folks do for each other.  Often the spiritual depth and profundity is amazing.  I hear folks walking away from that hour talking about how happy they were to be there.  Truly, I think this counts as a happy hour.  And most of us don’t drink a drop nor eat a bite.  But we have been fed soul food!

This leads me to believe a true, lasting Happy Hour is one that is memorable and which we enjoy all over again simply by remembering.  This is why the birth of a child, marriages, even a good death count as happy hours.  It is indeed ironical that a good death can count as a happy hour, but when we live in the Spirit and, then, die in the Spirit, life is a comedy and not a tragedy.  There may be tears, but beneath the tears is joy.  And days and years later, the tears will have dried and the joy is a happy memory and, therefore, a happy hour.

Seen in this spiritual sense, the lure of our lives is to create numerous happy hours.  We will not have to traipse to a local restaurant in the late afternoon hours for their Happy Hour.  We have the capacity to create happy hours any time of the day or night and as frequently as we can.  The spiritual vision is to live every hour as happily as we can.