Spirituality should not be a means of escape (that’s what Netflix is for).

Like most people, I have been asked on more than one occasion where I’m at with spirituality. The question itself has never mattered a whole lot to me, and yet somehow I feel that it’s important to have an answer of some kind. So, for what it’s worth, here it is:

Whether source, heaven, jannah, or nirvana exist is a question I find little actual use in, nor am I interested in which one of those you identify with. Such things do or do not exist outside of my capacity to understand them or be right.

I believe it should be central in one’s philosophy to maintain responsiveness to whatever reality it is you inhabit currently. Loss of responsibility to this world and preoccupation with other potential realities seems, to me, less like a meaningful way of connecting with ‘spirit’, and more like a simultaneous act of defiance and resignation.

My reason for this belief is the suffering created by a people inoculated against experiencing pain felt by others. The scourge is not ungodliness, nor is it political correctness; it is simple conditioned fear of the consequences of empathy. Sometimes that fear disguises itself as a hyperbolic emphasis on personal freedom. Sometimes it disguises itself a need to restrict the freedom of others. A frequent consequence of empathy is shame, and shame is a thing many of us are willing to spend a great deal of time grasping at other realities in order to avoid.

Is suffering evidence of the absence of God? I think this question passes the buck. I think suffering is evidence of a culture that fails to show up for fellow (and future) inhabitants of this reality here. We’ve based our philosophy on the bootstrap for centuries, only to continually run from the evidence when this philosophy fails us massively.

Do we create our own reality? This idea seems, to me, equal parts arrogant and ignorant of the structures that have been co-created for us. We are not a series of isolated incidents and separate dimensions. We are on the same grid, and are every bit as responsible as we are able to respond.

I believe one’s spirituality cannot somehow exist outside of the traits your culture imposes upon you. You may choose to say “We are all one,” but you still have, within this reality, a specific experience of race, gender, ability, and social class. We refer to a oneness that exists on an atomic level; on a human level oneness is achieved by working across real differences to create an equality of outcome. Nowhere currently are we all one yet in this respect.

Try as you may to untether yourself from experience, every spiritual revelation you’ll ever have while alive as a human being is inevitably filtered through an incalculable amount of conditioning, both perceptible and imperceptible. What your revelations centre on will be a reflection of what you’ve been taught to desire and what you’ve been taught to find repulsive. Thus is critical thinking essential to any relationship one has with spirituality, and thus are blind faith, a feedback loop lacking in diversity, and a relentless need to be right corrosive to such a relationship.

Finally, I believe that how you interpret spiritual and philosophical teachings matters far more in the results outside your head than the epiphanies you have within it. If your practice fills your mind, that’s great, keep doing it; even better if it fills others’ bellies.

More than a return to source, heaven, jannah, or nirvana, I am interested in what would happen if the quality of prayer and meditation was measured not by how much it helps you to escape, but by how much it brings you back to a state of responsiveness.

How to know when to try to change people you’re disappointed in.

[Author’s note: I’m being completely serious here. None of this is a joke except for maybe a sentence or two.]

I’m a glass-half full kinda guy. Only half a glass of beer? Sure, I’ll take it. (Particularly if I already drank the first half).

But while I’m a pretty positive guy, lemme tell ya, people disappoint me all the time.

Example: Sometimes I make plans with people to do social things, like drink beers together, but then they have to cancel because they have jobs, or families, or they don’t feel like it.

Disappointing.

Or you know those people who always have to make a joke about everything? Like clearly it’s a defence mechanism they developed early in life and they’re probably not even aware they’re doing it? Well sometimes when I try to confide in them about something serious they just turn it into a joke.

Super disappointing.

Or sometimes I find out people keep their living spaces messy. Or they voted Green because “they’re the only party that cares about climate change” even though the NDP has been trying to fight that shit for years.

The fuck, people.

What am I supposed to do here? Accept the level of investment people are willing and able to put into me? Choose more receptive people to confide in? Only date tidy people and people who vote for the same party as I do, if it’s truly *that* important?

Horseshit. I’m on this Earth for a very short time amongst thousands of millions of other humans for one reason: To limit my choices to a small pool of people and try to crowbar them into being more like me.

It’s my favourite thing about monogamy, really. You take a broad range of domestic, financial, emotional, social, and physical needs, cram them into one person, and slowly chip away at their self-esteem when they can’t meet all of them at once.

So for good measure, here are a few handy ways of knowing when you absolutely *must* invest yourself in changing another person’s behaviour:

1. It feels pretty unnatural for them to change.

Maybe you’ve tried to get your partner to socialize more? Maybe they experience anxiety in large groups and so don’t want to go to parties with you? Perfect opportunity to make them feel “lame” and insufficient if they don’t go. I recommend any sentence that starts with “I’m not saying you’re weak, but”. This is far more effective than choosing another person to bring, and mountains more practical than admitting that in your case you should probably just date extroverts if monogamy is your bag.

Remember, the healthiest relationships are the ones that have a dynamic of one person trying desperately to meet the other’s standards. How else are people supposed to grow?

2. They’re really not at all eager to change.

Maybe they say toxic things about social issues, or they brazenly flirt with others right in front of you, or they generally act less excited to be around you than you’d like them to.

Choosing to stop investing energy in such people would be a powerful way to both assert your boundaries and teach them that maybe they don’t treat people as well as they think they do. It might not happen for them instantly upon your ending the friendship/relationship/somewhere in between-ship, but as they go through life getting increasingly ostracized for their shitty behaviour, who knows, maybe they’ll change.

Or not. But at least to you they’ll be a distant memory.

On the other hand, you know what would really show them? Years of close contact and passive aggressive comments that never sink in.

3. It’s not critically important to you that they change.

Okay, if someone behaves in a way that threatens your personal sovereignty, power to you if you stick it to them, and power to you if your reaction is as strong as you’re able to make it. Sometimes external factors impose a scarcity that makes it hard to react to massively disappointing behaviour in a way that feels empowering.

But if we’re talking about the amount of carbs your partner has been eating since you hooked up, then you *must* make them more perfect like you are. It’s a scarce world out there. There are only seven billion of us, which is a lot less than seven hundred billion, so why ask yourself what you’re really doing spending time with people you’re constantly disappointed in, when you can just project your disappointment in yourself onto others?

Follow this advice and you’ll be happy in all your relationships. Or, don’t follow it. I won’t be angry with you,