After taking a very long break from this blog (not purposefully, but as a result of life, as usual), I’m back. This time I’m taking things a little differently. I’m still doing the Year and a Day Journal, but I’m not going to be posting as the day I WISH it was. Rather I’ll be posting as the day it really is, and I’ll just post until I get to #366, even if it’s four years from now (hopefully it won’t be). Heck, I might just keep going after that. People do that, right? Make series and stuff on blogs?
Since the Year and a Day Journal club was disbanded on social media, I have to look up other sources for interesting spiritual questions. I’ll do that tomorrow. Today’s journal is one I’ve come up with for myself, so here goes:
What is the thing that frightens you the most, and how does it impact your spiritual path?
I’m glad you asked, Chloe.
Really, the reason I came up with this question (five seconds ago) is because this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few days. As I’ve made pretty clear on this blog, I’m currently working abroad as an English teacher. I’m in a country I really enjoy and I’m doing something I really like doing, even if it’s not always easy. Sometimes I’m disgustingly lazy and I don’t want to go to the school, even though teaching is incredibly rewarding, and watching my students improve is awesome.
On the whole, though, the best thing about being in this foreign country is all of the other experiences I’ve had. Recently I got the opportunity to do a spiritual ritual dip in icy water. It’s a traditional thing here and I was really happy to have the experience of doing it. Even if, for me, it wasn’t a vastly spiritual moment–or, at least, it wasn’t in the way you’d expect. What happened for me was not that it was spiritual in the sense of a baptism, or in the sense of being cleansed or something. It was spiritual because it was an active step to combat one of my biggest fears, which, at least at the moment, is onism, or the awareness of how little of the universe we’ll experience.
A few days ago I was shown the YouTube series “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” which is basically a bunch of videos that highlight various complicated feelings of the human condition. Lots of them speak to me and have been things that I’ve experienced before–for example, that moment when you’re walking down the street and you realize that each face is the main character in each of their own stories, just like you are in yours. The series gives names to these feelings, usually taken from other cultures or languages. While many of them rang true with me, the one that really gutted me was “onism.” As I said above, it’s the awareness of how little of the universe we’ll experience. The video talks about how we get to a point where we mourn all the destinations we’ll never get to, all the billions of doors we close to just progress one step in our own lives, all the corners of the map we’ll never fill in with experience. I was already talking about this obscure sorrow before I had a name for it. If I go back and look at the posts on my travel blog, I mention how strange it is that when I leave this life, there will be places I’ve never been and things I’ve never done.
I think, at least at this time, this is my biggest fear.
Of course, you can’t prevent this. It’s not like a fear of spiders or heights or closed spaces, things you can just avoid or tell people about and they’ll get a newspaper as soon as a hairy eight-legged friend makes an appearance. When you tell people that it freaks you out that you’ll never live every single life, they just kind of shrug and say, “Well, what did you expect? It’s impossible.” But that doesn’t help.
Additionally, I can’t decide if it helps or hurts that I have trouble believing in an afterlife. Maybe if there was this hope of infinite existence, I could feel okay about not completing everything in this life. But also, it could be even worse if, when I die, I’m stuck in eternal paradise bowing at the feet of Jesus next to a bedazzled Jerusalem when really, I would prefer to be down on Earth getting dirty, if I’m going to go on existing at all.
I suppose the idea of reincarnation would help to make me feel better about onism, but I don’t think I’m ready to commit to that ideology, and really, I don’t know if I ever want to commit to it. For the last few years, I’ve been pretty content with the idea that we just go into the ground when we die. Reincarnation sounds like a lot of work, and even though I guess I could be comforted by the fact that I’m at the human stage now, I wouldn’t want to risk the possibility of messing up big-time and coming back as something farther down the pecking order (despite my belief that all things are important and intrinsically valuable).
So how does this fear (is that a good word for it? It frightens me but it’s not a fear the way spiders or tornadoes do–it’s more of a general awe and terror) affect my spirituality in the now, and not just in my philosophy of the afterlife? Well, as I’ve been in this foreign country, this frightening aspect of life has been a major force in encouraging me to take every opportunity. So far, I’ve almost never turned down an invitation or a suggestion to do something. If my friends invite me to partake in something (that’s not illegal or really stupid), I’ll do it. Because I already know that my life is very limited, and who am I to turn down these opportunities to have experiences, to at least transfer these very small things from the “haven’t yet done” list to the “did it” list. I don’t know if this behavior is entirely spiritual; we hear a lot about people who spend their lives in the desert or as recluses, pondering religion and becoming more spiritual. But for me, this action is, in itself, a spiritual thing. It gives me joy, which is, I think, a feeling of the spirit.
I can’t say for sure whether or not this onism is going to go as far as to affect what I choose for a spiritual path, but so far it has definitely been a driving force in my life, and it has led me to do positive things in the constant fight to live a life full of as many experiences as possible, which I think is a very spiritual concept.