“In the traffic of our days
may we attend to each thing
so that patterns are revealed
amidst the offerings of chance…”
I LOVE patterns. Not on my clothes so much, or on my sofa….more like in biology, geometry, and music. Before sitting down to write this post I was eating broccoli and wondering at how many different biological forms resemble those tiny little broccoli heads. Taking the florets individually they could easily be the same shape as algae, or some species of bacteria, or a flower. I sit there and wonder, "How long did evolution struggle to perfect this little broccoli floret? And why do certain things look so similar or seem to be based on the same pattern? Like the inside of an orange and muscle tissue, for instance. Veins and river systems. Or a walnut and a human brain..."
I could go on….and I usually do, until I realize the milk is burning on the oven, or I’m late to pick up my son from school.
Remember drawing “connect the dots” images when you were a kid?
My son Søren went through a phase of those and it reminded me of the thrill we feel at seeing a shape emerge out of so many random dots and lines. It’s the same thrill I feel when I write a song. It’s the thrill of making connections, a relationship between beats of rhythm, and a fluid ligament of a melody. It’s the same thrill I feel whenever I begin to notice a pattern anywhere:
Things are more related than we realize…there’s a connection and coherence between what seems so disparate and isolated if we have the eyes to recognize it.
These days it seems like a greater shape is taking place among all the rise of “religious none” data and empty pews. More and more of my friends are going to the church of “none” on Sundays, aka, a walk in a nature preserve, brunch with a loved one, a quiet morning at home with their families. Meanwhile, Churches are freaking out thinking that the whole world is going to hell ( and they mean literally).
It is my belief that the underlying reason why we are leaving the church is not an absence of our spiritual capacity, but static and outdated dogma of Christianity’s religious paradigm that has, in some critical ways, become incompatible to our very humanity.
Teilhard de Chardin was already noticing this incompatibility back in 1950:
We are surrounded by a certain sort of pessimists who continually tell us that our world is foundering in atheism. But should we not rather say that what it is suffering from is unsatisfied theism?...are you quite sure that what they are rejecting is not simply the image of a God who is too insignificant to nourish in us this concern to survive and super-live to which the need to worship may ultimately be reduced?[i]
So… no, friend. If you are finding yourself more attracted to a walk in a forest with your dogs on Sunday morning over sitting in a pew, there is nothing wrong with you spiritually. More likely:
We are unsatisfied theists, growing like yeast and rising something new in this world, unwilling to fake and compromise our truest longing to find meaning and wholeness in a larger coherent whole we can call God.
After all…connecting the dots what religion was meant to do in the first place; religion stems from the latin, “re-ligare,” meaning: to bind together into a whole what seemed separate and isolated. Sadly, religion has gotten sidetracked in this work and more often than not seems to enforce sectarianism and exclusion.
If church isn’t creating that kind of inner-connectivity anymore, follow your nose to what does feed your capacity to see and taste an inner re-binding to the "whole" of things. Be forewarned however that if your goal is true transformation, it will require some work and commitment on your part: most authentic spiritual paths insist that some type of meditative daily practice is a non-negotiable.
But to begin, pick up books on the mystics* from whichever tradition you hail from, and see if you’re not surprised to discover voices of wisdom who point toward a more expansive understanding of reality. Get into your body in ways that allow you some freedom from the tyranny of the mind. Discover ways to, as Rilke says, “Go inside yourself.” Just as he also challenges us,
“If your every day seems poor, do not indict it; indict yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon its riches…”
Find the poets, landscapes, mystics, and current wisdom voices that clarify for you this capacity to see the greater shape of things, and commit to setting time aside to be fed by them. (Yes, you DO have time…we make time for what matters to us.) Begin outlining a healthy rhythm for your week and create a pattern of dipping into whatever nurtures that deeper being in you with enough regularity to sustain you.
Make a pattern to see the bigger pattern.
It’s all about patterns. See what I mean?.
*looking for reading material on the mystics or the contemplative approach to life? Check out my newly added resources list in the contemplation page!
(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Activation of Energy, p.239-240)