“Clarity is the elimination of mental clutter. Agility is the elimination of physical clutter. Tranquility is the elimination of spiritual clutter.”James Clear
My mother’s side of the family is Christian, my father’s side is Muslim, and my wife’s family is Buddhist. Our dog declined to weigh in. That is some of the backdrop of my relationship with religion. The question of what is my religious leaning is one I rarely get directly. Instead it is felt in that moment when you pass by yet another church in the very evangelical South. Or it is the unsaid undercurrent in every first conversation with a new person you meet.
To be clear, I am not religious. From the earliest age I needed too much empirical proof to make a leap of faith. I also could not accept the idea that any of my friends and family would be “excluded” in an afterlife because we did not share the same belief structure. If they are in fact good people, what God would not want them in their company? This question made me think that belief was asking me to make a choice between ideology and the people closest to me. I could not reconcile that and thus moved away from any religiosity.
This disposition has been a simple decision for me but also a stance that I worried might form a wedge between myself and others. This perspective might just be my own mind forming opinions for others. Regardless, I have worried that different belief structures meant no real common ground from which to build stronger bonds. I have since learned how to better respect and give space to my religious friends and family. In the past, religion too easily triggered ideas of divisiveness and inflexible rules in my head. I now know that for others religion could be the operational manual for navigating the complexities of life and defining a purpose for being.
Somewhere in between those two perspectives there is the opportunity to find a shared value set that can bring us together. But if and only if we really get to know each other. Values based connection is a different sort of religion if you will. This synergy with others comes from finding others who prioritize and live the values I hold most dear and drive me daily. Those three principles being:
1. Do No Harm
• To others, the Environment, or yourself.
• Do the right thing, even when no one is watching.
• Find the root cause and solve it.
2. Leave It Better Than How You Found It
• Be Philanthropic
• Do Meaningful Work
3. Continuous Self Improvement (Marginal Gains)
• Mind = Lifelong Learning
• Body = Diet & Exercise
• Spirit = Meditation & Reflection
What I’ve learned is that for some, these principles are grounded in their religious beliefs. That the interpretation of scripture is loosely held and more of an inspiration to live a meaningful life. This middle ground has softened my previously hard edge on religious beliefs. The quiet and solitude of the pandemic gave me room to explore even more about my own values and beliefs. From that reflection I found a strong idea of a kind of spirituality that guides me. Of course there are some roots in science and facts, but it is still metaphysical in many ways.
My Spiritually, is all about energy. The energy that gives us life, how we use and transform it, and the positive & negative outcomes of that energy. The three laws of thermal dynamics also play a part in this spirituality for me. The energy all around us is finite, we don’t create or destroy it but apply it for good or evil. The second idea is that we are all connected on Earth, and if we apply our energy well we can only increase positive outcomes for all. Lastly, and the biggest stretch from the science, is that there is an ideal end state, where we have reached zero or a higher level of intelligence operating in many dimensions.
So in many ways, God for me is all the energy in nature that reminds us of how small & insignificant we are. God is in the graveyards that serve as the reminder of the finiteness of our lives and the conversion of our energy. God is in the cries of a newborn reminding us of the life giving energy of a mother giving of herself to her baby. God is in the redemption of a lost soul who finds new purpose in life. God for me holds no judgement, energy does not judge or take favorites. In its purest form it is benign leaning towards the positive. When corrupted, energy is destructive. This spirituality is the clutter free and minimalist ideal for me.