Life, n. A spiritual pickle
preserving the body from decay.
– Ambrose Bierce
The Devil’s Dictionary
Many years ago I saw a (very good & interesting) film … but failed to write down the title. I tried (unsuccessfully) many times to find the film … but recently I succeeded. And it is –
“The Japanese Wife” (2010, based on the story by Kunal Basu; written & directed by
It’s a story about an east Indian man (a school teacher) and a Japanese woman, who begin their relationship as pen pals … but then decide to marry … which they do. They exchange vows and conduct their relationship as married man & wife … entirely through the mail. They plan to get together physically (when they can afford to do so) … but meanwhile they just go forward with their relationship.
It is well done … by which I mean – that the action, the drama is entirely believable.
I do not know that such a thing has (ever, in the world) actually happened; but this film shows us that it could.
And, in so doing, it shows us – that life is essentially psycho-spiritual.
That is the (non-trivial) implication of it.
I think it would be a great foolishness – to argue that human life is not physical. It is obviously physical … but it is also psycho-spiritual (mental/emotional/spiritual).
I could have titled this essay – “Life is spiritual more than it is physical”; but, as I begin the essay with a movie review (which film has the import of supporting a spiritual view of life) I’ll stand by my choice.
Now … it is a helpful thing in understanding (anything) – to realize that there is a First Approximation … and then – Second (and subsequent) Approximation(s) / deeper levels of insight / and appreciation of nuance and subtleties. And (for a human being) these levels of potentially deeper insight are never-ending. Human understanding is never replete; that’s just not who we are.
The commonly held view of Life (in Western Civilization) – is that Life (as a First Approximation) is physical … and then (later, maybe) as a Second Approximation – it’s spiritual.
The problem is – that this is wrong.
These (respective) approximations are reversed; they’re in the wrong order.
Life is (First of All) psycho-spiritual … and then it’s physical.
And this brilliant film is capable, quite on its own, of showing us this. That’s why you should see it.
Here is what happened to me (to convince me that Life is a spiritual affair) –
By the time I left GCCA (the religious order I was in for 17 years) … Oct. 2012, I had come to the realization that I was lonely … to such an extent that I felt my well-being was at risk. I felt like I was nearly going crazy.
Everyone at GCCA had taken vows against casual (premarital) sex; and perhaps if I were more spiritually mature, I could have better handled celibacy (& the lack of female affection and friendship). In any case, I guess I did not do so well with it.
When I left the religious order, the next three years were devoted to getting settled (again) in the big world. I stayed at the Spyker farm (my brother’s place in southwest Washington) for 10 months. When I found work (in Scappoose, Oregon) I moved there. About a year later I moved to Sisters, Oregon (where I live still). About a year after moving here, I began doing some online dating, starting with communicating with local women – more or less my own age.
I met a couple people doing this. And one of these is still a friend.
But after after doing this for a few months, I came to the realization – that it was not going to take me anywhere I really wanted to go.
I had seen a few notices in my inbox about dating sites for Russian-speaking women; and (having studied Russian in the Navy) I had long wondered whether I might have a sweetheart somewhere in that part of the world. So I began looking through photos/profiles; and when I found someone whose looks I liked, I began communicating with her. So (in February, 2016) I had an intense online affair with a woman from St. Petersburg (but then living in Kiev).
But (after 3 weeks) I was forced to conclude – that she, in fact, had no intention of ever getting together with me; so I ended that ‘relationship’.
But while I realized Svetlana had not been genuine with me … I knew that I had been genuine with her. In the course of those three weeks (and this is a little ironic) – I had changed and grown; I felt I was more of a whole person … because (from my side) the relationship was (that is – had been) real.
And what I had attained (I knew) could not be taken away.
And that’s when I really began to appreciate – that all relationships are essentially psycho-spiritual … that even when we are physically together, and even when we have sex.
Sexual intimacy impacts our psycho-spiritual state … but it is our psycho-spiritual state itself which is (always) the Primary Reality (not the physical interaction). Mmm?
Our relationships are valuable to us because (and to the extent that) they make us more Loving than we would be without them.
And this is why we need relationships … why we need other people in our lives.
They afford us a way of becoming more LOVING. Mmm?
What nurtures me (nurtures my psycho-spiritual state) … is the love (I have in my heart) for the people in my life.
That’s why I need them.
And this state of Lovingness may be achieved through mere remote communication …(though I do not recommend it).
But the fact that it is even possible – is sufficient to convince me – that what really matters in life is first of all psycho-spiritual … and (only) secondarily physical.
The (above) story/(argument) I regard as adequate; but there were other experiences in my life which have tended to push me toward the view – that Life is fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon (more than a physical one).
When I was a kid, in Ohio – 10 or 12 years old, I was out one day walking by myself
east of our house, toward the creek.
I probably DID go to the creek that morning, because I normally did that. But that’s not what I remember about this particular morning.
What I remember is … an apple.
My grandparents’ place was next door to ours, to the north.
And where the land starts to slope downward (and eastward) toward the creek (on my grandparents’ side … a long gentle slope) was an abandoned orchard.
Apple trees mostly.
And the orchard was considerably overgrown with multiflora rose bushes – (brambles).
But that day I was walking along the edge of the field, southward, along the top of the old orchard.
It was late summer, and the trees along this edge were apple trees – Golden Delicious.
The apples weren’t as big as the apples that you see for sale in a Produce Stand or in a Store. But they were there. And there were a lot of them.
And as I walked along, I perused the apples.
It was late in the morning, and all the apples on the trees had been warmed by the sun.
Presently a certain apple caught my attention, and as I gazed at it, I knew – that that VERY apple – was the one I wanted.
It was too high to reach … so I picked an apple I COULD reach and threw it at the one I wanted.
This knocked it loose and it fell to the ground. (Even that throw – was perfect.)
I picked it up.
It was perfectly colored – Yellow and green and gold and with a little blush of red. Speckled.
The shape was full, but also tall. A “perfect” apple.
And it appeared perfectly ripe … Beautiful.
Even so … I had no idea – what was about to happen.
I bit into it … it was crisp and a little warm …The Juice ! … The TASTE !!
It blew the top of my head off !
As soon as I bit into it, I could ‘see’ (not with my eyes) … but I could see a cone – the point of which was in the center of my head, and it extended upward through the crown of my head and far into the sky.
Maybe that Cone is always there …(only normally I don’t see it). I don’t really know.
But that was a good apple.
You can’t buy apples like that in the store.
(And while I don’t remember doing it, I’m sure I ate the whole thing.)
I grew up in semi-rural northwest Ohio. Our house was but a five-minute walk to the church.
When I was little, the Shawnee Methodist Church was one of those small white frame country churches, typical to that time and region. When I was about 12, it was deemed unsafe, and a new brick building (with glue-lam rafters) was built in the alfalfa field ‘next door’ to the east.
Our parents were (apparently) in agreement about whether their brood should attend church, so my brothers and I attended routinely (as did our parents).
But (probably by the time I was in the 6th or 7th grade) I became aware that ‘going to church’ was (for most of the people in attendance) basically a social phenomenon. They did not particularly believe what was being said there, nor were they very interested in it. The beliefs (& issues) were for them mainly irrelevant.
And – here’s the problem with that:
“Children are permanently impressed only by the loyalties of their adult associates; precept or even example is not lastingly influential.”
– Urantia Book (p. 1094.6)
Insincerity cannot be hidden; and it’s a poor teacher.
So I do not know that all my church experience contributed significantly to my spiritual development. (True spiritual training is mainly missing from the American Culture. It’s simply absent.)
I do think, however, that choral singing did make a significant contribution. This is due to (good) song selection … many of the pieces I learned (and sang) were written (composed) from a high spiritual state. And in order to interpret the piece, you must go there (to where that music came from) … and, it seems to me – that this is not trivial.
Listen to this one –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTZEwrgm8KY (Ave Verum Corpus – William Byrd)
This group of singers has become the ‘piece’.
And look at the director. He’s (still functioning but is) on the edge of tears. (Wonderful !)
When I was 27, my little brother, Jack (who was 24, and just starting graduate school) died suddenly one night from carbon monoxide poisoning (from an improperly vented gas apartment heater).
When that happened, I realized that I had (somehow) managed to ignore the entire realm of spirituality.
But then, I did some research into ‘Life After Death’. I took an Experimental College course in Eckankar (the ancient science of soul travel) … and almost began down that path as a chela (a student).
I (instead) learned the practice of Transcendental Meditation.
I attended Maharishi International University, and graduated from there (in 1980)
In 1977 I had a (major) philosophical/spiritual insight, which for me changed everything.
Ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlfqsL3hTK0 (trailer to my ‘Talk 1’)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qpqRyvKuPDOtMsQYpKHLxnkOfOCrsYxmdaioAZd8RgE/edit?usp=sharing (getting an assignment)
From 1995 to 2012 I was in a religious order (Global Community Communications Alliance … https://gccalliance.org/ ) where I became acquainted with (my own) pride and arrogance … and also became familiar with the Urantia Book (the core document of that group).
Worked as a Hospice CNA (certified nursing assistant) from 2008 – 2013) … caring for people at the end of their life.
Doing this work, I soon learned – that we are all the same … we all have the same needs. We need to eat … to be (kept) clean (& comfortable). And (mainly) we all need love, friendship, respect; and we need to be enjoyed and appreciated.
When a loved one dies, we realize that (though their body is still here) … that they are not … that they have gone.
We had (always) associated their body with them … but then we find out that it’s not them … which means – that it (the body) never was them.
It’s a little shocking really.
But that’s how it is.