The Spiritual Bookshelf

I have been in a spiritual mood lately. My knee started hurting and I had to stay home for a week, resting it. This felt really weird, not going to work and not having a fever, severe coughing and the rest that goes with a really bad cold/flu, which is the only kind of sick leave I have experienced in my whole life. The knee turned out to be fine, through my boss I got an orthopedist to look at it and he said it was just an overexertion, gave me a shot of cortison and a few more days of rest.

I could have kissed him. And I realized how much my identity rests on the foundation of physical strength. Ok, it´s not all that I´m about, but it sure is a larger chunk of me than I had realized. Like being a practical, hands-on kind of person. Someone who has clever hands, if you know what I mean. It wasn´t always like that. As a child, I was considered the clumsy one, the one with two left hands or the-thumb-in-the-middle-of-the-hand. It didn´t take me many years of adulthood, though, to realize that this was completely not true. I also realized that growing up in a large family with lots of siblings, it´s easily done to "brand" one another and for parents to allot their children a certain stereotype.

I think it´s natural that some kind of division takes place within a group dynamic. It makes sense that different members of a group takes on different roles and divides "the labour", as it were. I have certainly, both instinctively and consciously, used different kinds of energy and behaviour in different kinds of work places and projects during my private and work life. We all do, I´m sure of it. I think we are wired to sense what is lacking in a group, and then we try to supply that, to create a balance that makes a group more viable. The important thing, though, is to realize that your role is not all you are.

I think that exploring just that, all that we are, rather than trying to "find" ourselves, as if we have some "real" core that needs discovering, is what spiritual work is about. If there is anything that needs finding, it is the courage to expand, rather than limit ourselves and make do with the role and position that was once given to us. Which too many people do. For me, spiritual work is to learn new things, whatever they may be, particularly things that are outside my comfort zone, that are perhaps not what others would expect of me. It is also to ask questions about what I´m doing, why I´m doing it, what I´m thinking, and again: why. Why, why, why. Being spiritual is to never let go of that inquisitive child you once were. That´s the part of you that you need to nurture.

In the spiritual part of my shelves, you will find some of what you might expect to find on such a shelf. A few different versions of the Bible, for sure, as I am a practicing Christian. The Koran. The Bhagavad gita. Jung. Thomas Merton. C S Lewis. All of these, and more, are friends that help me ask those questions. And a few years ago, a particularly bad year, I found that there is a whole spiritual movement connected to knitting. Which totally makes sense, if you have ever done any crafting at all.

When I´m in a spiritual mood, I will make a selection of books that feel relevant to me, that have some kind of "pull", park them on my bedside table and leave them there for a month, or until I feel finished with them. Sometimes I will deep-read one of them, sometimes I will leaf through them all. Sometimes I find something new, either at the library or at the bookstore. It´s all about finding a relevant question, one that will bring me that next step forward. It doesn´t have to be an obviously spiritual book, either. Anything will do that speaks to me.

This time, I think I have realized something about how much that which is seemingly going on around me, actually mirrors what is also going on inside me. Probably, it´s a two-way dynamic, but it has reminded me, and stressed, how important it is that I make conscious choices about what I expose myself to. Both in the sense of protecting myself against repetitive, negative stuff, and exposing myself to novel ideas and even looking at the familiar from a new and different perspective. Which takes some real consideration. And what might at one point be positive, can turn sour if it keeps you from moving on. It´s all too easy to identify with a process that´s supposed to help you on, and get stuck in it forever. (Yes, come to think of it, our ability to identify is just another thing that make us work so well in groups...)

Twelve years ago, I travelled to Gothenburg to visit the Swedish Bookfair, and one of the seminars that I remember best was about holy texts (owing to the fact that a new Swedish translation of the Bible had just been released) and how they are percieved in the three large, monoteistic religions. I will never forget the representative for the Jewish faith, he said that for the Jews, there are no holy texts. For them, studying and disputing the religious texts was a holy act. This made a great impression on me, it rang true in every way, and since then, I consider intellectual sloth to be my greatest sin. One that I sometimes need to be shaken out of, rather violently. Like with the pain of a hurting knee.

1 comment:

  1. thought-provoking. thx :)

    "studying and disputing the religious texts was a holy act."

    so often i've been condemned for questioning someone's interpretation of the bible, when, for me, questioning religious texts and concepts is as natural as breathing. i believe we grow closer to the source as we grapple with the text. the idea reminds me of the story of jacob wrestling with the angel.

    it is sometimes easy for me to just keep wandering along the same path when i should be doing more examination