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.

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