The page one above-the-fold banner headline of the latest issue of “The Minnesota Atheist” newsletter screams, “The Trouble With Christmas.” The interview that follows is with Tom Flynn, who wrote a book of the same name in 1993, and who, around this time of year every year ever since, has been talking about how Christians have shoved the holiday down the rest of our throats.
I only skimmed it, since in my experience know-it-all believers and non-believers both are predictable in their groupthink and dogma-walking. More so, I’ve come to know for certain — probably from observing myriad crowds of enraptured music fans over the years — that human beings were born to worship, to stand in awe of something or someone that takes us off the planet and into the numinous, into transcendence, and serves as a portal to wonder and oneness.
Which is why, under a full moon with Cantus and the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos shuffling on my iTunes, I’m writing to say that this year I’ll be celebrating Seeker Season, in which all forms of traditional and non-traditional worshippers are given a spot at the table, from the Kwanzaa crowd to the “all who wander are not lost” shamans to the fallen-away faithless angels to the winter-solstice-whipped heathens to the fire-breathing pagans to the fanatical Festivus flock (“It’s Festivus … for the rest of us!” — Frank Costanza) to the “your spirit animal name” here.
More so than any that’s come before it, this Seeker Season I’m on the hunt for anything that acknowledges the connection between you and your maker-god-beloved as something ridiculously personal. Anything that says that the best answers to the mysteries of life are not answers but more questions, though live in the moment and love the ones you’re with is always a good start.
No, as you may have guessed, what passes for holy these days does not do it for me. As such, the two most illuminating spiritual paths I’ve gone down this Seeker Season, at the churches of Half Price Books and Magers & Quinn Booksellers, are Taoism and Sufism.
Trust me, the Tao is a beautiful, living thing; no dead sea scrolls here, and makes for a terrific Christmas gift. Page after page, Lao Tzu (or Laozi) enlightens his fellow travelers, lovers, leaders and friends who share in his desire to glorify and glean stillness and wisdom from the knee-buckling wonders of the natural world. “Practice non-ado, and everything will be in order,” he writes and, “The sage prefers what is within to what is without.” Yes, please.
Lao Tzu’s mystical soul poet brother Jalaluddin Rumi was born on Sept. 30, 1207, in the city of Balkh (now in Afghanistan). Rumi wrote about the power of love more than any other single person in the history of the written word. He believed that love — an open-ended energy source that flows between souls and leads to a state of grace that connects us deeply with the rest of the universe and the beloved (God) — is the most important spiritual practice we can partake in, a true living definition of the word catholic.
Rumi is the most well known practitioner of Sufism, the Encyclopedia Britannica definition of which goes, “Mystical movement within Islam that seeks to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God. Sufism arose as an organized movement after the death of Muhammad (AD 632), among different groups who found orthodox Islam to be spiritually stifling. The practices of contemporary Sufi orders and suborders vary, but most include the recitation of the name of God or of certain phrases from the Qu’ran as a way to loosen the bonds of the lower self, enabling the soul to experience the higher reality toward which it naturally aspires. “
More to the point, there’s this, from an unknown Sufi scholar:
“There are three ways of knowing a thing.
“Take for instance a flame.
“One can be told of the flame, one can see the flame with his own eyes, and finally one can reach out and be burned by it.
“We Sufis seek to be burned by God.”
Anyway, happy Seeker Season to you and yours. What I’ve learned this year, maybe more than any other year, is that the profound yearnings of two long-mummified dead poets are forever relevant, and that anything that embraces mystical love at a time of religious hate-speak and cutesy church marquees bears repeating in the neighborhood newspaper at the end of the year of our Lord, 2010.
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.