Oh, how I love the sound The Sunday New York Times makes. That promising thunk as it hits the door early in the morning. This week’s edition features a thought provoking essay by Frank Bruni on a book by Sam Harris. The book in question, Waking Up, is due out next month. In it, Harris poses the question, “Do we need religion to experience spiritual transcendence?” He posits the not unreasonable argument that perhaps spiritual feelings are part of the human condition and religions merely piggy-back on what already exists. The various religions simply provide it with a narrative framework. Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if there were no religion (e.g. no religious wars/dogma/garb/superstitions…)? Fat chance. But I digress.
Our human need to cultivate spiritual experiences is one way we temporarily escape gravity, the weight of quotidian life that both comforts and constricts us. Whether through prayer, mantra, meditation, nature, creative work, art, books, music, gardening, exercise, spa days or shopping expeditions, Neflix, or playing fetch with the dog, we all long to lighten-up and be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Another form of religion is money. Many of us dream of a sudden windfall. Some of us dream of fine jewels, others of luxury cars, the more altruistic think of charities. Whatever path our fantasies take, they all lead to a similar feeling: Taking us away from the daily grind.
Money is one escape route, though it’s not the only, nor the best one. But in purely literal terms, it’s an anti-gravity whiz. With it, we can literally fly to exotic locales at a moment’s notice, or lift any body part unkindly treated by gravity’s work. It unyokes, freeing us to pursue studies, hobbies, retreats, and other heartfelt desires. And, anyone who stands in the way of our dreams can just piss off.
But maybe this craving for money, for the ‘magic number’ that will set us free is really a spiritual craving in disguise? The quest isn’t for money, it’s for transcendence.
Recent trends like the ‘renting economy‘ whereby more and more people are taking a pass on owning things, and, instead, are using social media to pay-as-they-go, is another indicator that people want to lighten-up.
Owning is gravity-making. Renting is anti-gravity. This trend is especially strong among the Millennials, perhaps as a reaction to the materialism of the Boomer generation.
Who knows, maybe lightening up will turn out to be a reliable path toward enlightenment? No need for a horsehair shirt, that’s so 15th century, just rent a Versace gown and Prada clutch as needed. Then money, as darling as it is, will not be the end, but only the means.