Yesterday I held my first live stream for what I’m calling “New Flight Studies.” The idea was born from a need I’ve seen for a while, but which has been intensified by the CoVid-19 pandemic. People need spiritual outlets. A lot of folks, religious or otherwise, don’t recognize just how essential these outlets are for our well-being because humans have a natural tendency to seek them out. We go for walks in the woods, volunteer at various organizations, take a jog or a bike ride 1, read a book, or get together with friends. We may not think of these as “spiritual activities,” but they are—activities such as these help us to transcend present circumstances so we can catch a glimpse of the larger narrative to which we are all connected.
So what happens when so many of our ordinary spiritual experiences are disrupted? They may not be halted, but they are different—just enough that we recognize something is “off.” Often we lack the language to frame this intuition and so we consider it glitch and try to push on without ever realizing we’re downing in a sea of “keeping busy,” pulled down from the breath we need to live.
In Christian circles, particularly in the low church Protestant circles I’m connected to, spirituality has been viewed with so narrow a lens 2 that we’ve often been drowning for years without realizing it. When the pandemic hit and cut off things many of us didn’t even realize were spiritual practices—worship, pot-lucks, small groups, Sunday school, coffee shop meetings, and volunteer opportunities—our narrow understanding of Christian spirituality was exposed. We were still able to follow the guidance to “read your Bible and pray,” but suddenly something was missing—and a good many Christians spiralled as they struggled with this unexplained shift.
Some folks tried to hold on until public worship could begin again, hoping it would reset “normality.” But masks make the experience weird and singing difficult. And following mitigation rules are, in general, a pain. The oddity of worship during the pandemic meant that in person gatherings weren’t quite the cure all people were looking for, especially when the rest of the world remained weird and alien. This explains, in part, why so many churches have rejected mitigation. People think they are drowning from a lack of normality, and unmasked worship which refuses to accept the reality of the pandemic is how they think they can be rescued from going under. In reality, however, people aren’t drowning from a lack of normality, they’re drowning from a need for spirituality.
The mostly accidental spirituality which we practiced prior to the pandemic was a lot like an IV drip—it sustained, but it wasn’t satisfying. And with things remaining disrupted, compounded by the constant threat of more disruption hanging over our heads, we need more than an IV drip. We need to take deliberate steps for spiritual nourishment—to embark on a new flight, as it were. And, for me, taking this new flight means pursuing creativity—taking up deliberate activities which release our being to interact with beauty, muse on truth, and guide us into a posture of listening. As a Christian, I’d say that posture helps us listen to the calling of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to master creative pursuits to experience their spiritual benefits, we just have to practice something which helps us transcend our own limited perspective—through the ironic means of using our perspective to capture some truth we see in the world around us.
Yesterday, I began to offer an invitation to this new flight by discussing photography with my friends Lee Spitzer and Elmo Familiaran. My video set is in progress—I need some practical lighting behind me, hang a shelf or place some decoration on the wall, add some acoustic panels to the ceiling, and get some much better lights 3. I also had the guest audio down too low, which is bothersome. But none of that matters, because our conversation on Spirituality & Photography was a joy. I invite you to watch it yourself, and perhaps be encouraged to take your own new flight.
- Confession. I tried Couch to 5k and hated every minute of it. I’ve never once experienced a runner’s high and am in awe of those who have. ↩
- “Read your Bible and pray,” is the typical expression of Christian spirituality. Worship is also often included, but then it’s about “hearing the sermon.” The experience gets lost. ↩
- Preferably ones that don’t run out of battery 10 minutes into the conversation. ↩