I actually think one of the difficulties of being spiritual and / or religious in the modern age is that ours is a time when earnestness is not much prized. Knowingness, humour and continual self-mockery are more valuable. All of which I'm fine with, but once you start trying to deal with concepts like the meaning of life, contact with the Divine, and meditating upon one's chakras*, you have to suspend the voice in your head that wants to find the joke in everything. It's not an easy thing to do, for me anyway, and I'm still trying to find a writing style that isn't mocking, and isn't too worthy for words. I don't think I'm getting there, but I can only keep trying. Here's my latest thoughts on Lent.
Lent began on Wednesday 18th February this year. Each year, I like to make a vow for Lent, a habit that began as a child at Methodist Sunday School, with the traditional giving up of chocolate. Despite the oft-derided nature of such vows (“diet in disguise”, “First world problems” are among two of the criticisms I’ve heard), I actually think they can be useful. I think it’s good to learn how to overcome habits that can trap us, and learn that we don’t have to be dependent on external sources of pleasure.
Since I became an adult, and then a Unitarian, my vows have shifted, though, from the giving up of things, to the committing to things. Last year, I vowed to meditate for five minutes every day. (If I averaged it out, it would probably have been 2.5 minutes a day. Oops.) Now, I try to make a choice to do something that might help me to develop spiritually.
This year, I have vowed to read five passages from the Bible each day. Happily for me, I’ve done this a few times, and I’m now as far through as “Psalms”, having just finished the Book of Job. As a Unitarian, is this an odd vow? I don’t believe it has to be. I became a Unitarian because I wished to learn from all faiths, and the faith from which our church sprang – Christianity – is one I still want to study.
In an odd way, I get more from the Bible now as a Unitarian than I did in my previous habits of worship. I find it easier now to read the Bible now that I can see it in its historical context, and recognise that these are words written more than two thousand years ago by the wise men of a persecuted Middle Eastern tribe. In 2015, having received an education that introduced at least a brief introduction to the major religions of the world, it’s not necessary for me to believe this is the literal truth of God, and the only truth of God, in order to find the wisdom hidden within it. And if it challenges me, and I sometimes don’t know if I agree with it? Well, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be religion.
* not as painful as it sounds, you can do it lying down.