Practical Spirituality

I see myself as a utilitarian. If something isn’t useful, why bother with it? When I share this philosophy, someone is bound to ask, “What about beauty? And, knowledge for the sake of knowledge?” They ask, “What about things like honor, integrity, and helping others?”

The utility of those things and anything is always relative to your goals. If pleasure is among your goals, you will find beautiful is of great utility. If your goal is to feel good and virtue floats your boat, have at it.

I like to feel good and helping others feels good. But that’s not my only reason for helping others. I cannot succeed in whatever I want to accomplish without the support of the others. I consider myself having gained some wisdom over my seven plus decades. I have wisdom about leadership, about love, about change, about people, and probably other things. Yet, I experience no pleasure in that wisdom unless I share it and find it received as useful. To achieve my goals, then, I must help others achieve their goals. 

I love a good meal with a good wine. Some dinners I enjoy the most without company to distract me. I’ll never forget the white truffle meal I ate alone at La Miche in San Francisco. But, I could not have enjoyed that exquisite meal had I not been supporting the hostess, the maitre d,’ the server, the chef, and the sommelier who supported me that evening. I must support the restaurants I visit, my grocer, and wine shop. There would be no enjoying such food and wine if I don’t.

There is a wholeness here. To support and being supported complement and are necessary to each other. To pleasure and to be pleasured are a unit. Sharing and receiving go hand in hand. The experience of joy is wan without the experience of pain. This is nature of things: there is no top without a bottom, no heads without tails. White is meaningless without black and female meaningless without male. There is no life without death and no death without life.

Yet we turn these unities into dualities so we can judge one side as better than the other. Such is the source of suffering. I get tickled at the irony of someone berating another for being judgmental.

Health is about wholeness: physical wholeness, mental wholeness, spiritual wholeness. The greatest utility of all is to understand and embody this wholeness which must include the acceptance of illness. Such is the essence of practical spirituality: as we listen to others for whatever wisdom and/or nonsense they may be offering us. And, to the degree that we listen, our nonsense and our wisdom will be heard.

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