Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.” – Rumi, Sufi poet
Yesterday, while reading Sharon Salzberg’s book “Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experiences,” she made the analogy of how beliefs, be they from a Tradition, religious or not, or heritage, are like like straws that we use to look at the sky. In this Buddhist analogy, the sky “is the unobstructed truth of who we are and what our lives are about.”
For many of us, we have a straw, say for myself, Eastern Orthodoxy, that we use to look at but a narrow part of the sky. And for some maybe, we use this special straw we have to condemn the straw others are looking through from a place of arrogance.
Nonetheless, the point is/points are that we all have straws, there are many straws, and there is even a way to sit back and not have a straw at all.
My good friend, and someone whose become like a father to me, Dave M., said this in reference to these straws:
Sometimes the sky is too broad and you need a filter, but as you age, the filter becomes thinner and you draw your eye back from the straw so that you see all of the sky, not not just the focused narrow view of what is in the straw.”
Basically, it’s okay to want a straw or even need one, but in time we can lessen the grip on our straw, let it go, and take a look at the sky above us in all it’s mystical, profound, mysterious, beautiful, and glorious existence!
He went on to say, “Structure your base belief, but allow your self to see other views as having value.”
Hence my dilemma, impasse, obstacle, etc. I love Orthodoxy and believe deeply in the Christian narrative, but I find myself aligning more and more with what Chris Martin of Coldplay called an “All-theist” perspective, that there’s truth everywhere and one religion’s take is just that, a perspective, a straw!
I resonate with what Muslim scholar and writer Naeem Abdullah writes in “Islam: A Favor to Humanity,”
The world today is fast becoming one. Humanity is one, God is one, and mankind are all part of one human family. All religions are connected, and they all lead to faith in the one God. No matter what name we give him he is but one God.”
In my theoretical leanings as a counselor, and as a thinker in general, I’m highly Postmodern and Constructivist, and in being so, along with my mystical, spiritual approach to life, love, religion, and Scriptures (be it the Bible or Quran), I want to do things like:
-Pray the Rosary with Catholics
-Attend Divine Liturgy with Orthodox folks
-Worship with Protestants
-Let the JW’s and Mormons in to tell me about their faith
-Pray at a mosque with my Muslims brothers and sisters
-Learn meditation/mindfulness from a Buddhist monk
-Meet the Dalai Lama
-Talk about the universe with Taoist
-Recite the Dhikr with Muslim Sufis
-Pick the brain of a shaman of the Native American variety
-Listen to the Torah in a synagogue
-Live non-violently like the Anabaptists and Jains of Jainism
-Learn about “the good life” from Pagans
-Try yoga with Hindus
-Befriend atheists and pick their brains as to why they are atheists
-To engage with and learn the spiritual/mystical teachings of all
-Generally open my mind and heart to the views of others
The dilemma? Orthodoxy isn’t down with the vast majority of things I just listed, so I feel I can’t make it home permanently because of my convictions, beliefs, and experiences with faith being so much more than the acceptance of a set of dogmatic beliefs. I’m too “unpigeonholeable” so to speak; too Constructivist and Postmodern to limit myself to just one straw.
Yes, I’m a Christian, and I’ll recite the Nicene Creed along side many others with every ounce of my being, but I’m also willing to put down my straw, learn how others view things through their own straws, and hopefully one day, while still maintaining my base belief in the story of Christ, which is polluted, watered-down, and lost in the noise these days, but will still be my primary mystical and spiritual teaching, I’ll be able to lay aside all straws! The only disclaimer is that it isn’t the only teaching, the only mystical narrative! It isn’t the only straw!
As Naeem said in the quote above, we are all human. What unites us all is not religion, belief, or dogma, but the simple fact and truth that who we are and what we are here for lies in the sky to which we all look!
We all share flesh and blood and a desire to know what the sky is all about. We should all be able to question the faith we have in our own straws, to doubt them, wrestle with them, maybe reject them, be willing to entertain the views other straws offer, and maybe, just maybe, one day, somehow, let go of our straw, lie down in the grass, do nothing, and gaze upon the vastness that is above us, which is our universe, our home, our lives, our planet, our existence, our being, and our Truth.
The Story is in the sky; let’s lay aside our straws!
We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We all come from the same One
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up!” -Macklemore
“Love is my religion!” -Ziggy Marley