TED Conversations

Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


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What does “spirituality” mean and what are its functions in one’s life?

Aunt Margaret asked, “When did you get the notion that soul is merely an intellectual construct?”
I responded, “I took soul for granted until I thought about it.”
Aristotle and others, to whom we credit ‘soul,’ were commenting on prehistoric ideas or intellectual constructs. I doubt intellectual constructs and suspect intellectual constructs about intellectual constructs.
If one accepts that souls are not real, it follows that spiritualism is merely art--poetry. The idea of contact with spiritual beings seems poetic; religious considerations, for example, at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14229a.htm , seem poetic; the idea that there exists an immaterial reality that is beyond the reach of the senses seems poetic. Yet, poetry seems to promise many people comfort against the unknowns humans face.
Goals lead to planning. Career planning inspired me to think beyond career, toward life planning. My presentation ended with retirement and grandchildren. To follow my religious tradition, I might have included goals for afterdeath. However, even then I trusted my death: I did not control my “beforelife,” so why presume to control my afterdeath?
If one decides to set goals for life, it seems spiritualism offers nothing beyond tentative comfort in a distraction from what is. Yet, many people who call themselves “spiritual” offer peace and empathy. If good conduct is a consequence of spirituality, I appreciate spirituality for the resulting benefits.
I no longer think about soul. However, there are powers that help me. Denying that I am ‘spiritual,’ I try to think with secular terms: goals; motivation; inspiration; imagination; satisfaction; peace; acceptance; focus; faith in reality; energy. These terms seem neither spiritual nor material. So, what are they?
When there are other forces beyond my control, such as a loved one so ill they may die, I may drop to my knees and pray. But it is not spiritual conduct: it is cold, naked begging.


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    Mar 15 2012: i DEFINE spirituality as "a progressive intricate dialogue with reality"
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      Mar 16 2012: Thank you.

      I perceive 4 key words: reality, dialogue, intricate, and progressive.

      Reality is most interesting. There is what is (reality) and what humans and other species do about it (also reality). For example, sun rays burn skin; people who do not protect themselves from sun rays suffer (reality). Viability is key to this fact vs. consequences duality.

      Most people unavoidably live in partial misunderstanding (uniformed), while humankind continues its inexorable, quest toward understanding. Understanding (noun) is a process, and its product is understanding (verb). Among its tools are observation, consideration, discovery, confirmation, and reconsideration. Understanding leads to discovery, technology, invention, and knowledge about both realities (facts and consequences). Humankind is driven by viability. The perception of infinite viability empowers individuals to remain uninformed and entities to maintain misinformation.

      Dialogue implies exchange for benefit; an entity is to exchange with reality – present its arguments in a forum with reality. What benefit does reality seek? And what does the entity offer to reality? I sense disconnect. It seems reality plainly and simply is. The entity can only react to reality – cannot exchange with it.

      Only with intricacy can misinformation be maintained for a lifetime or era.

      "Progressive" seems justifiable. As humanity increases understanding, the entity must modify its misinformation. For example, while humankind understands the earth is 4.6 billion years old, some entities and some people maintain Creation at about 4006 BCE.

      Again, the modifiers “progressive” and “intricate” hold only for the entity’s side of the duality: reality simply exists, whether it be what is or what the entity does with what is.

      Perhaps humans are better served by ideas beyond spirituality, such as, essence of individuality, motivation, energy, etc. Any suggestions?

      I wrote only my perception -- not the truth.

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