Friday, March 14, 2008

Reaching Out and Making Sense

Ophelia Benson has had it with spirituality, a definition of which she tried to pin down in a discussion forum among fellow feminists and academics:

Certainly no one has said what it is. If it takes a *whole book* to say what it is, maybe it's not a very useful term? Maybe it's just feel-good fuzz? If a term is useful, it's generally possible to define it (in under 60,000 words). If a term can't be defined, can it really do anything other than obfuscate?
Very good question.

Whatever it is, I think Chris Hedges labels it as god, religion, or both.

It would be rash, I think, to dismiss the idea of spirituality, but at the same time, that which can't be defined should not be preserved solely for the sake of its positive associations. People, even nasty atheists like myself, really are receptive to good ideas, but it simply won't do to point to a huge stack of books by way of presenting and clarifying an idea.

People promoting spirituality of whatever sort, whether as part of a religion or in opposition to it, should not underestimate their resemblance to the people handing out flyers in front of retail Scientology outlets.


mikesdak said...

Being the simple type, I tried Merriam-Webster. The first two definitions are religion-related;the third says "the quality or state of being spiritual". OK,spirtual.....two relevant meanings "of, relating to, or involving spiritualism(which in turn,leads to "the view that spirit is a prime element of reality")" or "of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit" Ack! on to spirit...."an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms" or " the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person".

It's not hard to see how this could lead to a lot of books and/or alcoholic consumption.

Laura said...

Mike, I've tried both without reaching any definitive conclusions, but had a lot of fun in the process. I will say, though, that I try to make room in my life for experiencing the sacred, meaning the things I regard with awe and reverence, like spending time in nature and/or in meditation.

I think it's what many people look for in religion, but sadly, I've never experienced it there.