I spoke shortly before about my own spiritual aesthetic; a kind of “desert spirituality” which is otherwise minimalist, tending away from flowery sentiments and more plain, intellectual strains of contemplation. That is, at least, how my spiritual life lives out. But that is to be only descriptive. I’ve not spoken on the prescriptive, i.e. why I choose this path in my spirituality.
I am interested in the profound reality which inheres in God and revelation, and I have no intent on pushing this away. It is not profundity that worries me. Rather, what worries me is being lost up in some paradigm that values emotional states of being above all other things. I have a practical reason for this; I’m just not an emotional person. I consider it an advantage for my preferred way of living (and maybe this is my preferred way of living because of such, but anyway); seeking out the contours of reality with my intellect and constructing grand, systematic cathedrals of ideas. The emotional states are intrusive, and serve only to obstruct the consideration of reality I’m actually interested in. I want to burn away the rest of the world in order to focus on just the tiniest string, pulling on it to see where it comes from. When you try to live an emotional spiritual life, you are whirled from one mountain peak and valley to another, never getting your breath and never having the patience to stoop and pull on that string. It might not be a wrong sort of spirituality, but it is not one for myself. I will stay in the spiritual valley and eke out my living there, thank you very much. As Thomas Merton intones, “We must be satisfied with the least crumb of spiritual bread.” And I am satisfied with what I have.
Not that I am not interested in further perfection, but for my progress and what illumination I yet perceive, I am satisfied. This mountain trail winds me sufficiently.
What I am also preoccupied with is knowing. Knowing is just my way of trying to love God. It might sound silly, but perhaps it could be compared to the way how, when you first meet someone who you’re smitten with, you want to know everything there is about them. You see this with the way people act about celebrities, which is an incorrect focusing of that same kind of drive. I have come to know God some, and I’d like to know so much more. In order to know more about God, I’d like to understand the profound reality He is and His way of being in this world. That requires undertaking philosophy, to see the plain string of reason and tugging on it, seeing where it goes and coming to rest in God. Jacques Maritain states in his Degrees of Knowledge that “The saints contemplate not in order to know, but to love.” I’d have to disagree; my contemplation is to achieve both, because knowing just is loving, at least where this fundamenta of reality is concerned. But I can see that this is where many people are coming from, especially those who act concerned about me.
Now I know the more atheistical will call foul on my presuming that the string leads to God. Perhaps I am wrong on this count, but it is something being worked out. So far, all my reasoning leads me to believe that God exists and as yet I simply can’t imagine being an atheist. I cannot reason otherwise than how I do, at least where God’s existence is concerned. It is one of those things I’m most certain of, where my philosophy hinges, and something that I have, unsurprisingly, spent the most time analyzing. I could no more disbelieve God’s existence than I could change the entire structure that forms my philosophy at this point. You would literally have to demolish the cathedral and put a new one in its place.
Is this contemplation sufficient for all time? I don’t know. I know many spiritually self-actualized people who appear to practice a kind of desert aesthetics with their spirituality. I also know many spiritually self-actualized people who practice spirituality in a lush garden, surrounded by many ornaments of their contemplation. I simply happen to, for now, find solace in the desert.