Although I’ve always been as keen as anyone to find more peace of mind, my involvement with ‘spirituality’ has been tenuous, to say the least. I’ve dipped into various groups and schools of thought over the years, finding something useful in most of them, but I’ve always ended up coming back to what felt to me much more like the ‘real’ world.
For example, I can feel in an abstract kind of way that we are indeed ‘all one’ – but I have to balance this with my day-to-day experience which sometimes involves pain, frustration and separation, and the seeming impossibility of living completely in harmony with my values. For example, I know I enjoy the benefits of living in one of the richest countries in the world, but although I talk a lot about equality, I’m not really sure that I would be happy to give up my comforts to the extent that would be needed if the world’s economy were magically distributed equally to everyone.
The relationship between such seemingly contradictory views is one which I call ‘diagonalism’ – a kind of balance between the ‘horizontal’/material and the ‘vertical/spiritual that makes it possible to live and thrive in the human world with all its contradictions, while not losing sight of the bigger picture which gives a deeper meaning to it all. Perhaps this isn’t so different from any ‘religion’, other than there are no leaders or followers – everyone can interpret it in the way that works best for them.
I can understand how the powerful – and, in some ways, necessary– human illusion of separation from each other and from ‘the universe’ is at the root of all our fear. And letting go of this fear is an important human priority, if peace and love is ever to prevail on this planet. I believe creativity, humour and love collectively hold the key to doing this, but sadly many of us are not doing very well with any of those, and get too easily distracted into the unsatisfying substitutes of ‘owning’, ‘controlling’, and ‘analysing’.
Those of us that can’t buy into the religious idea of a father figure in the sky who does a better job of loving us unconditionally than our biological family, tend to look instead for someone who is willing and able to truly love us as we are – if we’ve been brave enough to let them see that. For this to be possible, we need the conviction that, at heart, we are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but that we are basically ‘enough’ – which is another expression of the ‘diagonal’, and one that is given to some children at an early age, but which many of us only find later in life, after much soul searching and inner work,
As I work through this in my own life, I’m driven to share some of the process with other men – not necessarily because I think I have anything to ‘teach’ them, but because I know that a lot of us feel isolated, and taking the risk to open up and experience more vulnerability with each other could potentially be beneficial in our relationships – with ourselves, with ‘the universe’ and hopefully with a loving partner.
I know that any intention I might have of ‘helping others’ will always be linked with a commitment to avoid the unconscious arrogance of believing that I know what other people ‘should’ (or ‘could’) do to be happier. The only real help I can ever give anyone else is simply to walk the walk of my own authenticity (once I know what that is!), and share my experiences so people can decide for themselves if that is something that they’d like to emulate or not.
I thank The Good Men Project for giving me a chance to do this.
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