Where on earth have you been?

The Cathedral Church, St. Albans, England. Religion or Spirituality?

The Cathedral Church, St. Albans, England. Religion or Spirituality?

This question has (Duh!) many answers. Depending if it’s in reference to physically, mentally, or spiritually.

I’ll begin with mentally. This morning I had reason to write on a friend’s FB page a note about earning a PhD. My friend said,

I’m encouraging my mother to re-embrace her title — “DR.”— since I remember all she went through when she earned her Ph.D.

I responded,

It took me years to realize that my PhD is not simply an honorary formality. A major university does, in fact, recognize me as having successfully completed the most rigorous level of academic work. But I am still surprised when people call me “Doctor.” Tell your mom that she really DOES deserve the title and it’s OK to feel set apart in this instance because she is. I’ll bet she calls her physician “doctor.” That refers to her level of education, not her profession.

I have been in the rarefied atmosphere of the graduate school at the University of Iowa School of Music. I have taught at Salem State College in Massachusetts, Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, the University of Texas at Dallas, two of the Dallas County Community College campuses, and Southern Methodist University.

None of these is Harvard or Stanford or the University of Chicago. I’m not a real intellectual. But I know such a creature when I see one (and they’re not all at those three schools). I have known quite a few. They aren’t as plentiful as you might think. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Rachel Maddow is. In fact, I know some university department chairs who are not.

So where have I been mentally? At the periphery of scholarship, on the edge of thinking well and/or greatly, in the vicinity of being smart.

The Amazon at Manaus, Brazil. What a trip!

The Amazon at Manaus, Brazil. What a trip!

Of course, I can claim some extenuating circumstances. I have a brain disorder that has made it difficult for me to concentrate on much of anything for my whole life (my first seizure happened when I was in third grade, about 1953, and my TLE was not diagnosed until 1982). That’s not a cop-out. I’m also just plain lazy and not all that smart. I also have a mind disorder (I’m not one of those who was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder as the designer disease of the 2000s) that explains much.

So where I’ve been mentally is pretty squirrelly.

Spiritually – I’m not going there. I don’t know for sure what that means. I inwardly raise an eyebrow any time I hear someone say, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” I think, for whatever my non-intellectual thinking is worth, that’s pretty sloppy thinking. It’s a meaningless statement, but if it gives the speaker comfort, who am I to question it. Even the Southern Baptists seem to be disavowing religion. Their new $135,000,000 building down the street in Dallas is just “First Baptist Dallas,” not “First Baptist Church.” “Spirituality” is a catch-all word for something most people don’t really feel and can’t explain.

I don’t have a clue and admit it.

So that leaves physically. This—unless quantum physics (which I obviously do not have the brains or the education to understand) is right and I can be in several places at once or in parallel universes, or whatever—is easy to talk about. I’ve lived in Douglas and Worland, WY; Kearney, Scottsbluff and Omaha, NE; Redlands, Ontario, and Upland, CA; Iowa City and Muscatine, IA; Methuen, Beverly, and Salem, MA; and Dallas, TX.

I have visited (at the very least, passed through) all 48 of the “continental” United States.

I have been to England (and the Channel Islands), Spain, France, Canada, and Mexico on my own.

I have been to England, Brazil, Germany, Jordan, The Occupied Territory of Palestine (including Gaza), and Israel as a member of one group or another traveling for specific (educational) purposes.

I’m about to be physically (unless quantum physics is right) in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia! I’ve written about that here before. I’m finally getting REALLY excited about it. I’m not going on my own; rather, I’m going with a church choir to make some music.

Holy Cross Church, Rauma, Finland. Next stop on the journey?

Holy Cross Church, Rauma, Finland. Next stop on the journey?

And here’s what I think about my travel. Wherever I have gone (or will go) I end up taking myself with me. Every hour I’ve spent anywhere besides in my little abode has changed me.  The limited mental and spiritual me—I’m beginning to think—is informed by the places I’ve been, and I wouldn’t give that experience up for anything (and I’m jealous of everyone who’s done more travel than I), but I must remember that it’s me here in my body and mind (and perhaps my “spirit”), and no amount of travel (or any other experience) is going to do much to improve that. It is, as they say in AA, “an inside job,” and I better hop to it.

One Response to Where on earth have you been?

  1. bobritzema says:

    The claim to be spiritual but not religious bothers me as well. What I take them to mean is that they have some relationship with God (or with nature or the universe or numinosity–something they regard as bigger than themselves) but they don’t identify themselves as members of a group based on such a relationship, be it a church, a mosque, a coven, or whatever. What irks me even more is the claim that the Christian faith isn’t a religion. I blame Barth for that. The distinction there is that Christianity is based on divine revelation, whereas religion is based on human attempts to understand God. As if other faiths don’t claim divine revelation, or Christians don’t try to understand God!

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