I didn’t post on A Sense of Place yesterday. I wanted to, I really did, but there was nothing at all I could say that wasn’t just a rehash of my personal struggle with belonging. This isn’t the blogging that I used to do. I used to write about connection and learning from the voices in a place. Before Patheos I wrote about the seasons and the plants in Israel. Now, I fight my personal demon of loneliness and disconnection and I find my writing tiresome.
Not that writing is tiresome. The idea of someone reading it is.Right now I feel placeless. Right now I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. Right now I feel very alone in a vast universe where the land I’m sitting on is not even a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things.
And then, today, an utter stranger condescended to tell me that, being in my 40s, I’m not too old to start a true spiritual journey. You know, the journey inside yourself, as if that is the only journey that matters at all. He said this because I responded to another comment of his that completely dismissed any notion of communal spirituality. I sinned in his eyes by pointing out the power of the communal practices of ecstatic dance and song and of prayer shared with a friend.
He couldn’t know how long it had been since I last had that experience. He had no idea what other journeys I have taken. He doesn’t even know what path I’m on.
Anyone who has done work in a coven or grove that shook the very foundations of their being knows the power of communal spirituality. Anyone who has davvened (prayed) with a deeply committed minyan of Jews knows the power of communal spirituality. Anyone who has taken part in an all night ritual of study and prayer and song and dance with a Sufi community knows the power of communal spirituality. And anyone who has stood in the empty halls of an ancient temple and felt the energy of generations of spiritual people knows that there is spiritual power in walking together on our paths through the Mystery.
But what kind of an idiot am I, that I give heed to a stranger at all? Am I upset that I might not be looking deeply enough into myself, just as he says?
I contemplate the question for a moment and reflect. The answer becomes clear.
No. The reason that his words annoyed me so much is that this man shut down all possible communication, all possible interchange of ideas. He’s so sure that his internal path is not only right but the only right path that he has put himself out of reach of any discussion. He cannot learn from me, but neither can I learn from him, and that frustrates my sense of the morality of communal growth.
I sit on this speck of dust in the vastness of space and I mourn the fact that I am disconnected from all the other specks out there and all they have to teach us.