Since I spend a good deal of time outdoors with my dog, I created a music playlist so I’d have something to listen to while Dante and I take our walks through Washington Heights, Harlem, and the Bronx. Each song possesses something of spiritual value to me: it might be a title, some particular lyric, the refrain, an idea, a feeling, a harmonization, or the specific beat. Now, there’s scarcely a song that would qualify as “religious” in a conventional sense, yet the songs all express something of the experience of the human beings who created them and, therefore, each song has some spiritual content that renders it beautiful.
I’m not talking about aesthetics in a superficial sense — not that there’s anything wrong with aesthetics. Rather, it seems to me that, had we eyes to see and ears to hear, we would find meaning and value everywhere, not just in grand cathedrals or carefully groomed public gardens or the hushed hallways of museums. We’d also find something of the transcendent (the divine!) in every person — and that includes the junkie, the prostitute, the convict, the mobster, the murderer, the unwanted child, the mentally ill, the handicapped, the immigrant, the old person, the ugly person … and even ourselves.
As I wrote somewhere: The human heart is so powerful that it gives us the ability to forgive the unforgivable and to love the unlovable.
If only our hearts were bigger! Then you and I could accomplish anything. We could save the world and transform the Universe if we wanted to.
Buddhists sometimes refer to human delusion and the madness of the world, while Christians speak of original sin and the fallen state of creation. In essence, both traditions recognize that the world is fucked up and so are we. There’s just something about the way we live and the way we relate to the world, to each other, and to ourselves that isn’t what it should be. We all experience this but usually we prefer to distract ourselves rather than dwell in the discomfort. We pretend that cheeriness is happiness. We avoid tears at all cost. We live as though we will never die.
But we know it doesn’t have to be that way. In this very moment we can choose to live differently. We can make this world a little less fucked up if we want to.
July 19, 2017