Wednesday, February 21, 2007

December: Spiritual Optimism I

by Troy Chapman

(published December 06)

One of my deepest spiritual beliefs is that humankind is engaged in a process of development and unfolding. We are struggling to come out of the darkness of our delusions and begin living in the deeper truth of who we are and what we’re doing here on earth.

Some of us are aware of this process and are actively involved in it; others are completely unaware of it and so live lives governed by fear and often violence.

Those of us who are engaged in the spiritual process must account for those who are not. We must find a way to face the reality of darkness in our world without allowing that darkness to drive out our knowledge of the bigger spiritual picture, the knowledge that we are, in fact, in process.

In my experience, this is difficult. When I see some of the things we do to one another, be it in war or just in our daily lives, I often find myself leaning toward pessimism. It’s during these times I need to make a conscious effort to remember that despite all appearances to the contrary, we are on our way to the promised land.

December, for me, is a time to remember this; it’s a month to strive toward spiritual optimism. It’s the month Christians celebrate Advent, a time to ponder the mystery of God as a human being, a child no less. Here God is putting himself in our hands, rendering himself utterly vulnerable. I see the baby Jesus as a stark question to, and a profound belief in, humanity. The question is: What are you going to do with me? The belief is a belief in the possibility of our redemption.

For God to turn himself over to us as a child is the ultimate spiritual optimism. God obviously knows something about us that I often cannot see. I too often look at humanity and ask: can anything good ever come of us? (The way it was asked about Jesus: Can anything good come from Nazareth?) and God says, Yes, I am coming out of Nazareth and out of humankind.

Spiritual optimism isn’t just about seeing good and looking for the silver lining in life. It’s about looking darkness square in the face and still being able to see what’s possible. God sees possibility and this is what spiritual optimism is — it’s seeing through God’s eyes.

What does God see when he looks at us? What is possible for us as a species? I don’t know but I want to ponder it. I want to catch a glimpse of it and put it out in front of myself, to live in the knowledge of it.

For me this is the highest form of faith. Not believing in a certain doctrine or accepting a certain way of perceiving God, but rather believing that God is with us and is rising up through our dreams and longings and goodness. It’s knowing that the light in us is overcoming the darkness in us.

Someone once defined mysticism as the belief that the universe is conspiring on one’s own behalf. I would define faith as the belief that the universe is conspiring on humanity’s behalf. It’s a belief in the basic good will of God and of life itself.

December is a month for nurturing this belief in God’s goodness and knowing that it dwells in me — in us.