I’m in Tucson, Arizona today visiting family and it’s beautiful. Clear skies, sun up, no clouds, temperature 56. Wow. While Montana is beautiful, and it’s true, the sky is big, it’s hard to beat a Spring day in Tucson, Arizona. Not much compares.
As I was flying out of Billings Logan International Airport yesterday, I stood in line to go through the TSA checkpoint. A nice man in front of me asked me how much it cost to fly with my dog. I told him, at which point a lady standing next to me said I should get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) document from my doctor. Which then prompted some buffon behind me to chime in, “that’s a stupid law! I once had a renter get an ESA and then their dog chewed up my carpet!”
This then prompted a lady in line and another lady to get vocal and exclaim, “that’s not the animal’s fault, it’s poor training!”
Things got pretty tense in the check-in line and I never said a word. Such is the climate we live in, divisive and conflict-ridden.
I would only say this, sorry Mr. Capitalist, such are the challenges of capitalism. To the vocal ladies, thank you, for using your voice. In the end, all animals are beautiful creatures and worthy of love and respect, same as people. Many of our challenges in society stem from our perceived separateness from nature, as if that’s a tree, that’s a dog, and they are biological abstractions separate from me and my soul. The failure to see the interconnectedness of all beings causes divisiveness in self, which then plays out in our interactions with everyone around us.
As I sit here and type this blog post, my dog is on my lap. She’s a great companion. She’s not a service animal nor emotional support animal, she’s a friend, a pet, a companion. I’ve always had an affinity toward dogs in particular. I am not to exercise dominion over her, I am to care for her and steward our relationship well.
My brother sent me a text this morning about The Discipline of Meditation from a book he is reading. The writing is from Thomas Merton, one of my favorite spiritual masters. It’s funny, because I was looking at a retreat guide, magazine, sent from Spirit Rock Meditation Center last night and considering another meditation retreat at Spirit Rock over the summer. I once had a mediation teacher tell me, Kelly, you should go on a meditation retreat at least once in your life. She was so right, I did, and I enjoyed it very much.
Three years back, perhaps maybe longer, I began a “faith shift” in my life. I fell away from the Christianity I knew so well as a young adult. I fell away from church, I have not been to church in years. I fell away from reading Scripture and various works on theology, as if they held the truth. I had a faith shift and there’s no better way to describe it.
True faith shifts are incredibly painful and transforming. One can’t know what the other side of a faith shift will look like, in fact, I still don’t know what the other side looks like. I continue to put my spiritual life back together. What I do know is that I am now a kinder person today, to myself, and to others. I have more empathy for others than I have ever had. I take action and use my voice to help others, more than I ever have.
It’s odd, I think, that I found Christlikeness in Vipassana Buddhism; who would have dreamed such a thing. It’s taken me three years of denouncing organized religion and Christianity and embracing several truths of Buddhism… to find the heart of Christ. Of course, Christians that have it figured out, have their faith pegged, who know the undeniable, infallible truth of Scripture will renounce me as a heretic and surely on my way to hell.
So be it. I will roll the dice on the love Christ has for all of us, including the rebellious, and especially the faith shifters. I trust that Christ’s love is absolute, and were I to become a pagan, He would love me nonetheless.
Now, I am not so arrogant as to think I have found the truth and I alone possess it and everyone else is doing it wrong. Quite the contrary, I only know that I am happy, at peace, and I love my neighbor. This, I believe, is what God would want from me. And if the Christian tradition I lost would abandon me to hell for becoming Christ-like, what a perplexing situation this would be.
Truth be told, I don’t think about god much these days, I just live my life and try to do well by myself, my family, and others.
It it clear, though, that in reading Merton he is stirring something in me, rekindling my spirit. I would be happy to pray with the Trappists for a week, meditate with the Buddhists for a week, or pray five times per day with the Muslims, especially the mystical Sufi.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a New-Age spiritual sponge, mostly I am a simple man finding happiness in family, nature, animals, and writing. I am trying to lose those things I don’t need and peel my life back to the essentials.
Yep, it’s a good day to have a dog on my lap, a cup of coffee, and a computer, writing, thinking, reflecting.
Thank you, Tucson, for a beautiful morning.