Less and Less?

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is one of a handful of books I have read in entirety more than once during my adult life. It sits in the auspicious company of Good Night Moon and the Gospel of Luke. Is it any wonder? Listen to this:

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.” Annie Dillard

Wow. Way to undress the prostitute of modern religious consumerism. So you think you are potentially making some progress in your spiritual life? Do you find more grace, more of a sense of beauty, more peace? Is a deepening spiritual life about what we acquire or about what we no longer need? This is a good reflection for contemporary spiritual seekers.

Thankfully, I have many good days. What marks them as good? Connection with people; tasks accomplished; a good strong cup of coffee (or two); being moved by something tender or beautiful. All but the tasks qualify as both good and sensual in my book. In fact, I want to go on record here: I really really love being a sensual person. Without my senses, life might really suck. For one, as a musician, I’d have no job.

In a differently lived life, Dillard says, “The spiritual life requires less and less.”

This reminds me of a ‘praise song’ that makes me want to puke. It goes something like, “more love, more power, more of you in my life.” (repeat 3-15 times) As if the spiritual life is something you consume. Or that the Holy (big H) is something one asks for a larger portion of. Like pie. Or a latte.

“Pardon me, I’ll take one quad grande god please. Yesterday I had a double short, but it just wasn’t enough to give me an edge, so I’d like to double that today. And can you rush that?” This is the socio-economic context we live in; and we are mostly blissfully unaware of it. Being in a consumer society infiltrates every portion of who we are. Even our spiritual lives.

And, btw, I would use my consumerism in an altruistic way. “Just imagine if I won the lottery, oh – all the good I would do with it. Yes… I’d make an excellent rich person.” I’d actually give more than most people would, I think.”

What if growing deeper in our spiritual lives was about letting go? What if living “the good life” was about needing and wanting less? How would we go about this kind of spirituality and living? Dillard promises that it’s passage is sweet.

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