A grocery store in town has automatic doors that slide open as shoppers approach. It’s no big deal. Most stores do. But a few weeks ago, as I rushed from the store, the infrared sensor didn’t sense me. The door didn’t open. I ran into the glass. I was both embarrassed and frustrated. Later, it seemed that what I had experienced might have been a bit of a spiritual awakening.
Spirituality, I’ve reasoned, is like a series of openings. If spirituality is a fundamental dimension of my humanity, then it’s a series of openings that are mostly invisible, taken-for-granted, automatic. If I don’t notice these openings – to beauty, to wisdom, to intimacy, to understanding, to truth – if I fail to see (let alone value) those gifts to which I’m granted access, then I simply don’t know that I’m spiritual. If I never embarrass myself by running up against the glass, I may never learn that I’ve been living in two worlds. I may never learn to fully live.
What does it mean to be spiritual? I think it is a kind of awareness of the openings that allow me to transcend the purely physical, the purely literal, the purely logical. An awareness that grows into desire.
Origen of Alexandria (185-251) discusses spirituality in a treatise on Interpreting Scripture. In Rowan Greer’s translation of the text, Origen explains a three-fold method for understanding the Bible. The first of these is to view biblical texts or narratives as a “body, that is a logically coherent narrative meaning.” There are stories that say what they’re about. The second of these is to view biblical texts as a “soul . . . [that] bestow the greatest instruction upon those who hear them.” These are texts that we learn to interpret and explain. The third of these is the spirit, where “spiritual meaning is involved.”
I’ve run up against the glass. Then I realize that, of course, even scripture is an opening; and I want to cross over, to step through, to enter in. I want to be spiritual. And spiritually aware. I want to live.
I want to cross over, to step through, to enter in. I want to be spiritual. And spiritually aware. I want to live.