Cathedral

 

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Whether someone  chooses to worship the teachings of Jean Paul Sartre or is convinced that the risen savior is embodied in the plasticine statue in front of Bob’s Big Boy, I cast no aspersions. I may be amused but I would never condescend.

The ever widening diversity of faiths in the world make it clear how prevalent is our hunger to believe. Whether we invest ourselves in an inner power, a higher power, or a philosophy of benevolence, I cannot hold criticism for anyone with a sincere and loving heart who wishes to reach out in their own way to the universe.

The lotus position in the solitude of a wooded glade may be the ideal for some, while others require the tradition and ritual of a large assembly, and still others find their best comfort in the company of a close friend or good book. For many it is the place in which they choose to practice their beliefs that defines the expression of their faith.

The fine lines and foundations of architecture have always held a place of reverence for me, whether it was a mosque, a temple, or the New York Stock Exchange. I am frankly staggered by the imaginative designs of artists and engineers who have given us the likes of the cathedrals at Chartres and Notre Dame. There can be real majesty in a hallowed place of worship, although some buildings make it difficult to discern whether the design sprang from hubris or from humility.

The circumstances and environment help, of that I am certain, but it is worth asking ourselves, “Did I come to this place for its facade or for my faith?” In the end, divinity is something an individual must define for himself.

In the grand manner of ancient monuments to faith where centuries of wounded souls have sought solace, asked forgiveness, and sent their prayers aloft like embers, even a small community church or the quiet corner of a garden can be your cathedral.

It is not the edifice that matters. It is our willingness to be small.

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Pray

It is commonly presumed that only people of faith have a deep connection with prayer. But the act of meditative communication should not be shoehorned into the box of religion. Our minds needn’t be spiritually inclined to benefit from the thoughtful act of one human being reaching out to the universe in some indefinable manner that brings ease and comfort in a weary world.

a-to-z-letters-pExercise and traditional meditation may adhere to structure, posture and discipline, which are wonderful in and of themselves. But to be by oneself and settle the mind into a hopeful state, simply asking for a bit of relief, a sliver of help – this requires no training or association with anyone other than oneself.

I have had my doubts about God, like everyone who is honest about their faith. It’s actually an important part of wrestling with that whole human-and-deity relationship. It’s healthy to question in search of reason. Some of the most devoted, loving and spiritually inclined folks I’ve ever met are simply not convinced there’s anything out there. On occasion I can be one of them.

And still, whether you believe in God or not, praying is one of the finest things we can do for ourselves. Because as people we are not meant to handle everything alone. My pastor says that a Christian life is a life lived in community. I agree it’s important for us to rely on others, not only for social interaction but for a frame of reference to whether what we’re doing in our lives is the best we can manage for ourselves. Another person can comfort you, hold you responsible to yourself, or offer some insight that guides you back to where you wanted to go in the first place.

Community is good. Relying on others is good. But when we’re feeling wounded and in need of peace and solace, there are few things within our grasp that can top a bit of prayerful time alone. 

One of the very coolest things about praying is you can do it anywhere and without adult supervision. There is no wrong way to pray.

For me the most important thing about it is this — prayer is no more dependent on religion than our need to eat is dependent upon where we dine. One is a need – the other a convenience. The thing that facilitates a need should never be confused with the need itself.

There’s an old saying that goes, “Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell. Faith is for those who have been there.”

Isolation is never good. Reaching out is one of the most human things we do. If there is nobody around when this need arises, I never feel I am alone. Somewhere in the spiraling void around us is a heart that will listen.

And isn’t that all any of us really wants anyway — to know that we’ve been listened to?

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