Just another WordPress.com site

Posts tagged ‘spirituality’


Many of my atheist friends are uncomfortable with the word miracle. It’s because most folks perceive miracles as being the result of a personified deity. A brief personal religious history: I’ve identified as Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Humanist, Atheist, and Agnostic at different points in my life. As of now, I like the terms Naturalist, Seeker, or Humanist. This angers people. Especially those who are threatened by different belief systems. They want to group me in a box as someone who thinks like them or someone who doesn’t. They can’t deal with someone floating outside of the boxes.

I tend to relate best to Atheists and Agnostics. But I have religious friends who have redefined God in a way that describes what I believe in. Many of the sisters have an evolved view of God that allows me to discuss God and Faith with them without feeling like a fraud. For example, some people define God as love or positive energy. Right on. I just can’t shake the patriarchal, violent etymology behind God. The term makes me uncomfortable. I associate it with guilt, abuse, and fear. I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable using that three-letter word to define my own spiritual beliefs. My experience living with nuns has helped me be more comfortable in my own beliefs. It healed me enough to have compassion for those who do not think like me. I used to be jealous of people of faith. So many of them are unaware that not everyone can make themselves believe what’s comfortable. Because I was not treated with compassion or respect when I disagreed with some religious folks, I didn’t think they deserved it back. I now understand intolerance stems from fear. And how sad it must be to feel so threatened by someone who doesn’t agree with you. I’ve lived in that sort of fear. It’s miserable. I hope by being able to reclaim some of the religious language, I will be able to have more honest and open dialogues with people of all beliefs. There’s something spiritual in respectful conversations about beliefs. When neither party is defensive, we can learn and grow so much from one another.

I’m reclaiming the word miracle, because it embraces mystery. Lately, I’ve been capturing photos of pine cones in different stages of growth. Pine cones are miraculous. I can’t believe I ever took their growth for granted. Watching the brown cap form over the new bunch of pine needles, and then slowly develop into a pine cone is mind blowing. Wildflowers are miracles too. Hopefully the photos capture some of the joy these things bring me. Still loving life.




“Proved faithless, still I wait.”
–Franz Wright

Above I posted a link to an article by one of my favorite writers (Marya Hornbacher) about thriving in AA as a nonbeliever and just what it means to be both spiritual and atheist. I’m so grateful a professor of mine recommended her first memoir, Wasted, to me a few years ago. At the time, someone had suggested that maybe I should try to write in genres outside of creative nonfiction, because all of the great creative nonfiction I read was written by people over fifty. My professor had been lecturing me about my lack of confidence, telling me my insecurity hindered my performance. I couldn’t even fake the confidence, so I said, “I’m only twenty. Maybe I’m not mature enough to write in this genre.” Praise Zeus this woman was patient with me, because anyone else might have slapped me. She told me about how Hornbacher published Wasted at twenty-three, and it received all sorts of recognition and awards.

I bought it and devoured it instantly. I also lucked out because only a month after I read Wasted, her memoir Madness: A Bipolar Life came out. I discovered she was then 34, so I got to jump from her perspective at age twenty-three to thirty-four in just a short time. I felt like I got to skip the hard parts, and just gain all of the wisdom she shared about the struggles she experienced in between the two memoirs…That’s why I’m obsessed with memoirs, because I can learn from other people’s life experience. Their lessons-learned-the-hard-way add to my wisdom. I hope my mistakes can somehow provide wisdom for others too–if I ever finish my memoir.

Hornbacher’s latest book just came out this past May. It’s called Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power. When I heard about her working on this, I felt ecstatic and slightly scared. I couldn’t wait to see her tackle spirituality after I’d read so much about her struggles with mental health. I also feared that there wouldn’t be room for me to reflect on mental health and spirituality after someone with her talent beat me to it. Her book only proved to excite me even more about my own project.

I’ve been reading all sorts of spiritual books here. Plus, I go to mass every day. I came in as a pretty confident nonbeliever, but the more I listen to religious individuals with an evolved, well-thought-out spirituality, the less anger I have toward religion. I used to think it was just an exclusive club. They all say anyone can join their religion, but if you don’t believe, what are you supposed to do? Force it? I love that Hornbacher addresses her attempts to find faith, because she thought she was missing something. It gives me hope that she realized the answers and wisdom already were inside of her. It blows my mind that I can be reading a Catholic nun (Joan Chittister) and Hornbacher and feel like I agree with both of them. I don’t really like religious language. Wise individuals like Chittister define “God” in a way that I can get behind. Yet, I’m still slightly uncomfortable with a word that stems from  belief about an angry man in the sky.

This long entry was really just to say that all of the spiritual seeking I’m doing is pointing to nothing more than telling me to keep seeking. It’s about the humility of seeking something greater and waiting. Hornbacher and many other great spiritual writers, regardless of “technical belief labels,” agree on the importance of humility and a constant seeking. The quote from the poet, Franz Wright, is how he ends his book God’s Silence. There were points that the book got a little too Catholic for me. Wright has struggled with depression and alludes to suicide attempts throughout his work. Yet, I still started to disconnect because of his devout faith. Then, he ends the book with that line, “Proved faithless, still I wait.” Wow. What a punch to the gut. I love it.