These past few days I’ve been annoying several people with a recent “Aha!” moment. It’s a fresh perspective, inspired by Anne Lamott’s new book of essays, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. There I encountered one of her personal beliefs: that she is a spiritual being on a physical journey, and not the other way around.
Wow, think about that for a while (as I’ve already said to my husband, my mom and my critique partner)! I may have gone way beyond what Lamott intended to say, but this revelation sprang to my mind: there is a “before” body time as well as an “after” body time. Think about the “before” part. I haven’t always been this “body” person; I was something before. I know and understand things from before. I’m guessing we all do.
This concept brings me an incredible sense of relief. My human body is an intermediate step in total life, not where life begins. Spiritual life exists first. It reminds me a little of Doris Lessing’s Shikasta, the first of her five book Canopus in Argos science fiction series from the late 1970s and 1980s. Shikasta is an allegorical Earth, to which a benign galactic empire, Canopus, sends emissaries to restore SOWF (substance-of-we-feeling) to Shikasta’s Native population. Over time, the Natives have developed a “Degenerative Disease” that puts individual goals ahead of those of the community. The emissaries are born into the world they’ve come to assist; their spirits are literally born into Native bodies. By Shikasta’s 20th Century, in spite of this outside assistance, other influences that are malignant have prevailed; the planet has degenerated into war and self-destruction.
Shikasta, of course, is fiction. But, if the concept of spiritual life before (as well as during and after) physical life is valid, then I believe we all have the answers within ourselves in regard to making the world a better place. We have untapped wisdom inside. All that’s required is a willingness to dig down through the layers of what we are on the outside and recognize that our best, most knowledgeable selves know how to think critically, listen carefully and be kind.
I’m not being facetious, far from it. I am genuinely excited about this fresh perspective and the benefits of enduring spiritual existence. The newly revealed “before” part of being comforts me with a sense of continuity, a new curiosity about living this combined spiritual and physical life and a feeling of trust that I know more than I think I do, if I only take a moment to really think.
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What an exciting concept! And what a thought-provoking essay.
Thank you, Martin. I think there’s a lot more to explore here!
Good work, Sue!
Thank you, Ray! It’s good to hear from you.
And, to really feel–I think that’s where a lot of our “before” knowledge is accessed.
Yes, I think so, too. Good to hear from you, Erin!
I’ve always held the belief that I’m a living, loving, expression of god or God – your choice. What I do with that determines who I am during my physical journey on earth. I agree with you. We need to dig deep and think critically because we DO possess the capacity and knowledge needed to demonstrate kindness and compassion. I believe we are hardwired that way. Children aren’t born hating others. It’s that nature versus nurture debate. As a teacher, I sometimes have to remind myself of this – especially when times get tough. Right now I’m teaching tolerance. Difficult thing to teach in these times, but so worth the effort.
Once again, your writing inspires me in countless ways! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Julie, for reading and sharing your thoughts. The work you do in the classroom inspires me! I really appreciate that teaching tolerance is part of what you do- -as you say, so worth the effort.
I enjoyed your post, Susan. One reason I did, is that I have never known anyone else who read Shikasta and was so moved by it. I read it years ago and still think about the trajectory in it. You have given me another perspective in which to consider it. Thank you.
Hi Julie! Thanks for sharing your reaction to the blog post and your recollections of Shikasta. I’ve read the Canopus in Argos series a few times and find something new with each reading. Seeing Earth from alien perspectives is certainly illuminating.
I started Almost Everything yesterday, and thought of you when I reached the “spiritual being on an earthly journey” sentence. And then I stopped and thought.
Yep, it does that to you! Wishing you happy and inspired contemplation.