I love ragtime — that syncopated herky jerky exultation that Scott Joplin turned into a hit in 1899 with the Maple Leaf Rag. Ragime jumps with life. Listen to the Maple Leaf Rag, and your toe has to tap. Dance to the song, and soon you’ll be sweating, and gasping for breath. You’ll have to push yourself to keep moving when all you want to do is sit down and rest.
That’s the way I think about spirituality. It’s as easy as tapping your toe, and as hard as staying on the dance floor after you’ve run out of breath.
As I mentioned before, we spiritual atheists – AKA joyful heretics – can guide our spiritual lives by creating a set of principles for ourselves. One of the most important principles I’ve adopted is this one:
I rest comfortably in the knowledge that my spiritual path is both difficult and easy.
In a thousand different ways, spirituality is as easy as tapping a toe. You make it to the top of a hill, and spread out in front of you is endless ocean and startling sky of indigo and orange. Who wouldn’t feel transported at such a moment? Do you have a pulse? With a cool breeze in your face and glory in your eyes, you’ll feel more alive, perhaps even transcendent, and in touch with All That Is.
We humans are notorious for making things more difficult than they have to be. Joy is our birthright. Look up at the sky. No matter where you are, there should be a tiny patch of it in sight. Have you ever seen such a beautiful thing? I live in Kansas, and sometimes the sky boils a color I can only describe as gray green. When that happen, it’s best to watch for tornadoes, but even in that dangerous boiling, the sky is so wild and vivid that I can’t help but feel joy in being alive.
As a friend likes to say, look at what the world gives us without our even asking: Water falls free out of the sky, flowers bloom, oxygen nourishes us. Spirituality is ridiculously easy, and yet it is appalling hard at times, much harder than staying on a dance floor when you’re out of breath.
How do you keep faith when a loved one dies, and illness or assault threaten your own life or the life of your child, or even worse, takes that one, small, precious life away? How do you keep faith in a world where torturers mangle innocents, and then post video of the atrocity for all to see? But much worse than that, how do you keep faith when you fail, and you betray yourself or others in a small or horrifyingly large way?
I think we do ourselves a disservice when we say that either spirituality is always easy. It’s even worse to shame ourselves by declaring that we manifested a tragedy.
There are times when life hurts. For me the issue is not whether or not it hurts, but what I do what that pain. How do I react? What do I make out of it? Is there a spiritual lesson I can take from it all? Can I employ that lesson to become wiser, stronger, more loving and to help the world do the same?
That’s why I’m a easy and difficult kind of gal.
A NOTE ON THE PHOTO: This marvelous image was harvested from http://publicdomainarchive.com/. A thousand thanks to them for their fine taste and their generosity.