Sunday, August 8, 2010

None of us can save ourselves

“None of us can ever save ourselves; we are the instruments of one another’s salvation, and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness and into the light.”
Dean Koontz

No time like the present to begin trying to figure out what spirituality means. I have to admit right up front that I really have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’m pretty sure that the voices in my head have some good ideas, so here we go…

In my mind, spirituality is about three things: 1) Connection to others: 2) Awareness of meaning and purpose in life; and, 3) Connection to a greater power. In this post I’m going to talk about connection to others as a form of spirituality.

This concept has been clamoring around in my head for so long that it’s more of a color than a sound. It has been taking on shades and hues for nearly twenty years, but particularly in the past five. If you asked me to assign it a color, I couldn’t. I’m weird, but not that weird.

As a species, we seem to be hardwired to need others. Sure there are true hermits, but they are relatively rare and usually fit a schizo-something category in the DSM-IV-TR. I would argue however, that if that is the case, then someone early in their life so deeply damaged them on a spiritual level that they have become pathologically avoidant. Our need for others is glaringly apparent if you’re paying attention. We join clubs, play team sports (including computer games with people all over the planet we do not know), have friends, and date, marry and have kids despite evidence that the process is at least as painful as it is joyful. And hormones can’t get all of the credit; that’s about propagation of the species, not about the need to not be alone.

A new concept of spirituality as horizontal (between people) rather than vertical (between me and God) began to crystallize after my lifelong best friend Becky died in a plane crash five years ago, and I realized that there was no way that her death could possibly make sense in the context of what I believed spiritually. I’m not going to lie; part of my soul went AWOL when Becky died. I had more questions for God than a four-year-old at bedtime, and I. GOT. NO. ANSWERS.

When she was gone I was bereft until I realized that I was still connected to her, that I still needed her. And the only answer I got came from in me, not from God. I realized that I loved her, needed her, and was connected to her spiritually because I saw myself in her. I have a friend who wrote this about human connection as spirituality (and I think he’s freaking brilliant because he agrees with me): “At the most basic level, ignoring the universe, we all need to be able to see ourselves as connected to and part of the human race … As social creatures we derive our sense of belonging from being connected to others and knowing that we are connected. Overcoming all of the barriers to compassion and understanding is only possible when a measure of spirituality has been attained…we are connected to another when we see in the other person, our own humanity.”

So in essence, true spirituality began for me when curiosity struck a deal with the desire to abide by terms brokered by my religious background. Thinking outside the box became not merely allowed, but advisable. And so my journey began…


  1. I love you, but if you continue to use words that I don't know (bereft), I will have to find different and dumber friends. I ordered a very special book today. Can't wait to read it!

  2. I have been contemplating importance of the connection to self in relationship to spirituality... the sat-guru. (Sat = ultimate Truth and Self as one and the same / Guru = Teacher) The opportunity to experience that in others is a rare and beautiful gift.