I’m going against everything I believed, for I believed what I said about myself to others:
My spirituality is my business.
About a fortnight ago there was a crisis at work. Yours truly was being her usual expressive self when someone suggested to her, as in to me, to go on a meditation retreat. Without thinking, for how much do you think I think when I’m blurting out at sixty words per second with little punctuation when I said, “I’m not a spiritual person.” I had neither said it out loud to others before, nor said to it myself in any form. I don’t even know how true it is.
Which is rich coming from someone who has been obsessed with the ‘Hot Priest’ storyline in the show Fleabag. If you haven’t watched it, well you simply must. For now, here’s a taster of the priest in question, played by Andrew Scott:
If it were simply a matter of lust, a celebrity crush, we would hardly be trying to have a conversation today. The difference lies in how he treats the main character Fleabag (yes, the show hardly has proper proper names for people) as though she were a person and not just another animate entity of the homo sapien kind who betrays possession of female anatomy and all the stereotypes that come with it. I repeat, she is treated as a person by him, he is treated as a person by her and though there’s sex hanging in the air as if it can drop with all its 500 tonne mass at any moment, matters of spirituality, of life, universe and everything down to every excruciating, embarrassing detail are explored. All in a matter of six episodes of about twenty minutes each.
I say all this because, like most great art, I learnt about myself through Fleabag. Perhaps, it enabled me to say it out loud in the first place. Only, the statement needed to be made more specific: I cannot be a publicly spiritual person. The realization of my soul is not to be witnessed by others in the vision of my being at prayer or in ritual.
I agree with Blaise Pascal and William James. It is a useful thing to have: a belief in a greater being or something of a similar nature. Just to make conversation when in communion with yourself. That communion is important to me – maybe it is the extent of my spirituality. It can help outsource your pain, contextualise it, and if it works really well, help find meaning and purpose in life. Socrates said, (I’m really namedropping the philosophers today, eh?) that a life unexamined is not worth living. When in communion with yourself, you have nowhere to hide. You cannot temper the truth, whatever your version of the truth is at that moment, and you cannot be oblivious to it. It might be the hardest thing to do – for you cannot do it lightly or dishonestly. I’ve been in search of that honesty for a long time, and I can admit I’m not strong enough for that encounter yet.
Faith is a beautiful thing in those who truly have it. Who sincerely work at it. By my need to emphasize, you can clearly see my skepticism of it. I am envious, because I cannot buy into it, but I can see how it can ease the flow of life. My inner sanctity is perhaps reserved for things like music – that is why I still put on my somewhat showoffy as well as cheesy stuff and walk about in a room doing nothing but listening to it. Perhaps thinking itself is spiritual, in terms of trying to work out what living is.
And yesterday, I had another personal revelation. I was taking a class where we were asked to listen to a piece of music, preferably with eyes closed. It was Andean music, and I did as I was told, paying attention to the flute motif, the percussion and other parts of the music. It was a sort of meditation I suppose, though as you can tell by now, I don’t know much about it on a first-hand basis. Afterwards when we were asked what we thought about it, I was the only person who had had no visual image in her head as she had listened to it. Music had been a singular and concentrated experience. I wasn’t necessarily proud of it, I’m still surprised because my head is ordinarily full of shapes and colours – it is by far the sense that gets used the most.
Also, when we were asked to share the music we like to listen to I found myself comfortably quiet for once. It may have been laziness or vulnerability but I could not see myself starting the list: The Beatles, The Kinks, David Bowie, Kate Bush…. I’m not even sure what order they should be in, for chronology doesn’t necessarily betray personal love.
It is important to love at all, I suppose. Something, if not someone. It could be the beginning of faith, as well as the goal of it.