By Diana Rocha
When I hear the word spirituality I always feel a little anxious because this conversation can go one of two ways. In the first, there will be a mutual understanding, respect, both parties will agree to disagree and perhaps learn something in the process. Or the second being a mass of misunderstandings, anger and lectures where both parties will end up exhausted and resentful. Usually, the second is the most frequent. Firstly, my anxiety with this topic simply stems from a broad concept that can breed many misunderstandings. Secondly, going into conversations with our prejudices and ultimately forget that they are speaking to another human being and thirdly, the concerns with communicating in any conversation with a closed-mind.
Let’s start with the simple definition described by Merriam Webster, “Spirituality : the quality or state of being concerned with religion or religious matters : the quality or state of being spiritual.” That is a very broad definition but immediately relates spirituality with religion. For example, I asked a few of my colleagues, “When you hear the word ‘spirituality’ what comes to mind?” God. Church. Priest. They in turned wanted my answer, my answer was connectivity. I did not relate the same ideals to the word ‘spirituality’ and they wanted to know why and thus begin a series of misunderstandings, talking over each other and being lectured on why their beliefs or non-beliefs were stronger. It was not their position to try to convert me, I wanted to have a clearer understanding but that quickly diminished as I had to change the subject of this conversation rather quickly because it was escalating. I can’t speak for my colleagues but I felt as if I was being backed into and corner when in reality I just wanted to have more of an understanding of the people I interacted with daily. I did not learn what I wanted to but I did learn enough about their behavior and it makes me wonder do all people react this way?
By now you are probably wondering what caused such a misunderstanding. Well I wouldn’t say I am a non-believer however, most of my beliefs would broadly align with Animism. I believe everything has a kind of spiritual essence, that everyone is spiritually connected somehow to animals, nature and other human beings and our decisions; positive or negative, will have an impact on a grander scale. As unconventional as it is, during this discussion, as I felt like I was backed into a corner and I became more vicious with my words. Even though, I agreed on some level with what was said. I did start to disagree and became argumentative because at this point the lecture had gone on long enough that I just wanted it to stop. I continued to be talked over and ignored. All at once I stopped talking and did not further acknowledge this person. I do understand this was a harsh thing to do and at that moment of dismissal, I did not see him as a human being I saw this person as a radio I needed to be turn off. Getting swept up in this conversation with a closed-minded person we both seemed to have forgotten that we were both human beings able to think for ourselves and willing to communicate openly with more understanding. In hindsight, I am sure the intent of his intensity was to display the passion of his beliefs but dismissing differing beliefs was completely insulting not only to me but to everyone in the group.
Sometimes I forget that I am more open to conversations that may seem improper in the eyes of propriety, than most. And if I do not understand the topic at hand, I ask questions which may be seen as defiant or as if I am questioning their ideals which may make some annoyed and possibly belligerent. In a greater sense, being closed-minded can be a detriment to our society. I don’t say this lightly, how different would life be if we all woke up one day and decided, “Hey, why did I react that way?,” “Could I have been more understanding even though I don’t agree?,” “Did I think at all?” This may all seem utopian. However, currently our society is dealing with so much hatred from rash decisions and even situations that could have been prevented with more understanding. It’s horrifying. We have one person right now who is advocating nonsensical political ideals and people who follow without question. Every time someone is the loudest I always wonder how wrong they could be, every time. Sadly, this could deter my curiosity on any topic and which I am sure discourages others from asking questions. Who wants to yelled at and be forced into compliance with what you disagree with? I sure don’t.
Nowadays, the lack of compassion, understanding and introspection is dumbfounding to me. I think we can agree that there are so many differing beliefs whether it’s spirituality, religiously or otherwise that can separate us. However, are we so blind to the fact that we are actually allowing ourselves to be separated? Misunderstandings will happen, prejudices can be changes with effort and to be stuck in the same mind frame you will only be hindering yourself. I am hoping that over time my anxiety will ease when it comes to subjects considered as inappropriate to discuss and in that process as human beings strive to gain empathy, sympathy and compassion for our fellow human beings, creatures on our planet and our planet no matter what we believe.