Parking Lot Spirituality

Tuesday night, after my men’s group meeting, I was talking with several younger friends (they all seem younger these days) in the parking lot. I knew that one of them, we’ll call him Homer (to protect the innocent), was a student of  Zen principles so I showed him a book I’ve been reading, The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash. The book draws parallels between the principles embodied in the Twelve Steps and those of Zen. Now, I know many of you will be disappointed but that’s not the subject of this post. I want to talk about my reaction to the discussion that followed.  My other even-younger friend, to be known here as Jake, asked if I’d ever read The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield’s parable of the spiritual awakening of the book’s narrator as he reads an ancient Mayan manuscript. Yes, I’ve read it, I said, keeping the fact that I pretty much hated the book to myself given Jake’s enthusiasm.   Jake, however, was relentless, informing us that Redfield’s later books reveal that we each choose our life path, including our parents, before birth and prove that there is life after death through interviews of people who’d had near-death experiences.   Finding himself on a spiritual roll, he then moved on to the notion that scientists are finding spiritual principles at the heart of quantum physics.   Science and spirituality are coming together, he claimed.   With more skepticism than I intended, I said, What on earth would make you say that? Well, Einstein believed in God, Jake replied.   For some reason, the notion of validating The Celestine Prophecy with a quote from Einstein set me off, and I began to point out … pointedly … that Einstein’s very secular spirituality was hardly of the sort Redfield espoused.  Homer, sensing the potential for spiritual carnage, turned the conversation back to my book and a few minutes later, the parking lot lights went out.   We all went home, argument averted.   But I’ve been wondering all week why I reacted the way I did … at sixty-six I thought I was past the need to throw ice water on anyone else’s spiritual quest.

I learned some years ago that one of my defects of character is a tendency to be repelled by other’s enthusiasm, particularly on subject matter that I struggle with … like spirituality.    Enthusiasm sometimes seems like certainty and certainty comes a little too close to evangelism for my cautious spirit.   Although I didn’t like The Celestine Prophecy, I’ve certainly read my share of spiritual parables, mostly during my brief New Age period, from Carlos Castenedas’ The Teachings of Don Juan to Dan Millman’s  The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and The Law s of Spirit.   As sources of inspiration or spiritual ideas, these often poorly written novels can be useful but they fall far below the standards I set, as a scientist, for proof.    And it’s my impression that most people who choose to believe that science validates spirituality are willing to pull that string only far enough to support what they want to believe, where as, as a scientist, I can see that the correspondence between the scientific and spiritual principles … for example between the concept of creation in the Kabbalah and the big bang theory in physics … are, at best, metaphorical.   Metaphors can help me understand a spiritual concept beyond my comprehension but they prove nothing.

When I demand proof, I end up an atheist.    My acceptance of that fact … and that my belief in God is a choice … is a hard-won victory.   Tuesday, I forgot for a moment that I no longer have to defend what I believe by questioning what anyone else does.  My apologies, Jake.

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7 Comments on “Parking Lot Spirituality”

  1. granny1947 Says:

    Oh Gosh…now I feel SO uneducated…haven’t read any of those books…maybe when I retire I will get stuck into some heavy reading…right now I read escapism!

  2. lorraine Says:

    Try Science and the Akashic Field by Ervin Laszlo. You may begin to share some of your young friends enthusiasm. The 12 step program of recovery evolved out of exceptional open-minded inquiry. There is a saying. “For those who believe no explanation is necessary and for those who don’t no explanation is possible”. I am sure if the founding fathers of recovery had accepted their own limitations of thought and belief as just the way it is and all they had to work with , they never would have found the way it can be.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I did a little reading on Ervin Laszlo … it is exactly the sort of speculative science I find unconvincing, even though I’m receptive to the idea that thought is behind the cosmos. Schroeder, who has excellent credentials as a physicist, made a similar conjecture in God According to God. But a metaphor with tangential evidence is not proof to me. I know others find their spirituality in religion or fables like The Celestine Prophecy or ideas like the Akashic Field. It just doesn’t work for me. And please … the 12 steps encourage us each to find our own path to a Higher Power … and that is their power.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Hello again. I don’t know if you’re a “hit and run” commenter never to return. But if you do, I wanted to thank you for your comment … I’ve actually got several posts brewing based on it. If my other comment came across as defensive, I apologize. I’m only blogging about what works for me … I have no desire to make converts. In fact, if someone is comfortable with something closer to certainty, I’m a little envious … and when I’m in my right frame of mind, would do nothing to discourage them. That was why I apologized to “Jake” in my post and will do so in person when I see him again.

  3. granny1947 Says:

    Maybe I don’t read them because I might discover I am NOT spiritual!!!

  4. […] Parking Lot Spirituality […]

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