This is one of those articles where I admit to following my thoughts deep into the rabbit-hole of questions and theories, well into the point of no-return. Granted, I take these kinds of trips on a daily basis, but I don’t recommend it as it is not for the faint of heart. What I’m about to discuss encompasses a lot of what I’ve considered throughout my life, but also some of the knowledge I have gathered recently. The Nomadic Black Sheep blog didn’t begin from a simple thought of wanting to start a blog about my nomadic life, about my adventures in life, nor about my concerns with modern popularized Christianity and where the world is headed. The Nomadic Black Sheep came from “The Black Sheep” a hipster-type house study group that I created last spring, in which I invited people from all faiths, thoughts, who enjoyed creativity and going deep into analyzing the bible and beliefs to my home for a candle-lit evening of sharing and snacking. I being a Christian, considered that the church doesn’t have a place for people like us. You know… the weirdos, we are Christian… but we don’t quite fit in at church, denominations make no sense to us, and the reality is that we want to follow the word for what it is not for religion, we want to find the mysteries behind it. A lot of us are lost at our cookie-cutter church meetings, and the repetitive sermons about grace and prosperity, some of us know nothing at all. It’s much more than that isn’t it? We question things, big things, I felt that I couldn’t find a place to discuss those thoughts, our real thoughts and fears. For a while, the group was a success, but being it that my current city is a very transient place, I soon realized that I was losing a lot of my members due to moves. I knew it would be like a wave, it would come and go, and eventually it faded out until there was nothing left. It was sad to see it end, but at the same time, I know that at anytime and at any place, it can rise again. My last Black Sheep meeting was in September of 2016, and since then, I had been working on many other preachings and thoughts which I have saved up and hadn’t put together. I’m unsure why, perhaps I was saddened by the ending of this group, or perhaps I simply didn’t know how to share without other voices there to bring the warmth the group needed.
For a long time I’ve been considering a species of blanket-term to describe a condition I see occurring with more frequency: I call it the spiritual spiritless. It’s an interesting almost funny anti-religious, religion called spirituality which in turn tries to describe something that isn’t there, as being present by the use of a term which is thrown about as easily as the words “hate” and “love” rapidly losing its meaning. For the sake of further explaining my writing, I have to seek the help of my most favourite author and literary soul mate C.S Lewis, who gave the most precise opinion on the abuse of words and how they lose their significance:
The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone “a gentleman” you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not “a gentleman” you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said – so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully – “Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?” They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man “a gentleman” in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is “a gentleman” becomes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker’s attitude to that object. (A ‘nice’ meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose. -C.S. Lewis
Just as the word gentleman has become a useless word, I find that the word spiritual has lost its value as well. What is a spirit? And are the people who use the word to describe themselves truly convinced and in a belief that they are a spirit or that they have one, and that whatever it is they believe in, that spirit will continue on to another life once this life is over? Suggesting of course the obvious that a spirit cannot be killed nor put to absolute death. The Cambridge English dictionary gives us a few definitions of the word “spirit”: the word spirit as a state of mind, as an overall feeling of self, the word spirit as the inner character of a person, thought of as different from the material person we can see and touch; and also the word spirit as something that cannot be seen but can be felt to be present, as is the case when people speak of ghosts.
Regardless of which definition sounds right for you, a spirit isn’t something logical. There is no logic behind our thoughts, our feelings, or our ability to see an entire image in our minds and construct, and even create scenarios and have the ability to explain them to people. There are clear logical and pragmatic powers in the movement of our bodies and the way our organs work, etc. But no matter how hard we try to explain a thought, it is simply impossible without the idea that indeed we aren’t just bodies, we are something else. Perhaps we are making of ourselves too big of a deal to believe that we have the right to say we are not something which we clearly cannot explain we are. Many writers have created entire works of literary genius by the means of dreams and revelations, thoughts that came from virtually no where. Even C.S. Lewis himself claimed that most of Narnia came from a sudden vision he had of a faun with an umbrella walking through a forest. Walt Disney himself had a similar epic “vision” when he created the character Mickey Mouse:
“He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb, and disaster seemed right around the corner,” Walt penned in a 1948 essay titled “What Mickey Means to Me.”
These are not the thoughts of a logical brain whose different areas turn off an on at different times, or respond to stimuli which need specific nutrients to thrive. These are not the products of serotonin, and dopamine, nor are they the measured speeds of blood flow from the cortex to the frontal lobes. These are visions from the inside of individual worlds which influence our hearts, which bring feelings to our bodies, which make us feel things that we cannot explain, things which aren’t tangible.
Science for instance, attempts to give us an explanation for one of the most spiritual things that exist: love. There are many justifiable claims that explain the inner processes and the chemicals released to give us the infamous feeling that most of us crave, and yet it still can’t manage to explain why they occur in the first place and much less why they stay. For instance, many can claim that love is a tangible thing, based on attraction, but attraction would need some type of sight, communication, or touch. This would mean that without these things to ignite the chemicals which create this scientifically explained “love”, love wouldn’t exist. How then can we explain the love we feel for those we lose? How does it stay there? How does someone keep loving their wife/husband long after they’ve died? They aren’t tangible anymore. How do we love people who are no longer here, how do many of us feel like some part of them is still with us? Whether we believe in another life or we don’t, we cannot help that death and total loss are not natural to us, and that the idea of losing someone forever, even of losing ourselves forever, is something that haunts us and makes us question whether we want to say there’s nothing else.
I believe that if there is no continuation after an ending, there was clearly no point for a beginning. We see it everywhere, it’s a pattern all over our world. A seed is a seed, it is planted, something grows, it ages and it dies, but after it dies a seed is left, it goes back to the earth, it lives again. Why should we be any different? Our bodies die, but our thoughts do not. They live, they live on repeated by others and loved by others, but most of all, we ourselves are loved by others long after we are no longer tangible. There is no complete ending, and this to me is the perfect example to define that in order to be spiritual, you must be certain that you are first and foremost a spirit, and secondly a body and not the other way around. If indeed we were body first (or body and logic only) we would have no need for feelings like love, much less for memories that provoke feelings. We need memories to survive, but do we need the strong emotions attached to those memories? Not precisely. Not all of our memories are attached to feelings of self-preservation or survival, therefore taking away all logical purpose. I once did a small film-documentary on fragrance in London, and whilst filming the different people and asking them about fragrances, I encountered a young woman who teared up at the smell of a rosewater fragrance from Penhaligons. “It reminds me of my mother” she said. “She passed away, and she always smelled like this, when I smell this fragrance I feel like she’s with me.” The young woman had an emotional response to a smell, which triggered a memory, which brought her a connection to someone who she once shared a tangible love with and no longer did. She claimed (just as many do) that she could feel her mother with her. Science could call this a coping mechanism created by the mind, but even then, why were the thoughts, emotions, and feelings even there to create these “coping methods” anyways? clearly, it takes more than just the mind and its logical function, it takes our spirit.
I believe that you are connected spiritually to whoever you love, no matter where they are, your spirit and theirs is connected. We are connected through illogical, inexplicable and completely spiritual forces which tells us everything from whether something is evil or benign, to whether someone we care about may be in danger. We get feelings when someone we care about is in harm’s way, and we are confused and perhaps baffled when our feelings are confirmed. We spend our days with someone randomly on our minds, just to find that person calling us our texting us only minutes later, we have dreams about relatives going through situations, only to find out that they needed our help. All of these things, we choose to ignore and to push aside in favour of logic, when logic will never truly be our ally. Logic and reasoning will give us what we want, but not what we need. It will give us immediate answers, but it will brush off the true questions, the mysteries that perhaps are so complex we are afraid to discover them.
1 Corinthians tell us something about our spirit which I feel defines things for me:
1 Corinthians 2:14New International Version (NIV)
14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
Without the spirit, we will see anything that goes beyond logical reasoning as foolish. That includes things like the feelings of love, that includes kindness, and especially forgiveness. It isn’t logical to love, it isn’t practical to be kind to others without considering our own needs, and much less is it rational to forgive those who wrong us. What logic is there in giving to someone in need when there are so many people in need and when we are in need ourselves? Is it not logical to preserve and seek out our own good above all things? Why should we forgive someone who has treated us poorly? Is it not the most rational thing to feel anger and hate towards them? But most importantly, why on earth would it be practical to fall in love? To love someone to the point of thinking about them, of feeling fear of losing them? of wanting to be near them always, and feeling as if anything that could potentially happen to them would be our own demise. It is not logical nor explicable. The truth is, none of the things that make our lives have life, are logical.
As someone stated on a blog portion of a site I found called creation.com says: “If one seeks the truth with an open mind they will find it. but most don’t want there to be a God because it make them accountable.” Ro 1:21. I think just in this way, the thought of their being a spirit, a spirit to be accountable for, to be responsible for, is something which goes hand in hand with the idea of a God who watches over those very spirits. There being a God will never answer for the evil acts of humanity, no more than there being good people will remove the bad people who commit acts of evil. Freewill is a reality, whether we believe in God or not, there is a truth, but the truth must be sought. There is a good, but the good must be done. There is always a choice to be made, whether they are simple choices or difficult ones. We cannot say we are spiritual and fail to acknowledge our own spirit. We cannot fail to understand that the spiritual world is real, that even in our everyday life we are present with it, and that no matter how much we choose to deny it, it is greater than the small-minded logic we try to compare it to.
I was a preteen when I read and believed this:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10:
And I remember wondering how it was for people who didn’t understand this, much less believed it. Perhaps I don’t expect to explain everything and have it be understood. But I do believe that indeed it is in your heart that you believe and are justified, and to be justified is to be made moral. You cannot be righteous through your own human logic any more than you can love through your own human logic. Human logic will only have you do what’s best for your own survival and needs, it won’t give you an understanding of love, much less of the feelings that encompass it. Perhaps as a basic explanation I’d refer to the biblical term that God is love, He is mercy, He is forgiveness and kindness, and if so… there is no doubt nor should there be that there is a God. That indeed He filled the world with patterns and cycles to remind us that there is a beginning after death, and that love lives on, long after our spirit goes on to the next chapter.