Once upon a time, there were two friends who loved to work together. Spirit and Religion spent hours with people, studying astronomical patterns and contemplating mystical wonders. They celebrated the seasons, the human circle of life, and the mysteries of the universe. Together, earthy and practical Religion, and ethereal and airy Spirit, made a powerful team to inspire people.
Religion without Spirit
As time passed, though, Religion began to notice something. People were willing to give Religion money to build beautiful buildings and to perform special ceremonies. Sometimes people in desperate times were willing to give a lot of money to try to get something they really needed. Religion also started to notice that people saw him as powerful, and barely even noticed that Spirit was there. They couldn’t see Spirit, after all. This made Religion feel very important and special. Using this power, he started to make rules that people had to follow. It wasn’t enough that people chose Religion, they had to be seen to have chosen Religion. He demanded their presence at ceremonies and made them feel guilty if they did not come. If people questioned the rules, he wouldn’t let them in his beautiful buildings. He didn’t want the wrong kind of people in his beautiful buildings. If they did come in, they had to sit quietly and not participate. Rules were rules.
Spirit started to feel less and less comfortable around Religion. Spirit felt that Religion knew an awful lot about rules but very little about love. When Spirit hovered in the air in the beautiful buildings, she often saw people sitting stiffly in tight rows thinking about where they would rather be and counting every excruciating second until it’s over. She worried that Religion’s judgments, combined with impossibly high standards, doomed people to failure and guilt. Spirit said to religion, “I feel like I don’t even know you anymore,” and she didn’t spend time in Religion’s beautiful buildings anymore.
Spirit without Religion
Without Religion, Spirit spent more time wafting through the tree tops and swimming in the ocean. Without the constraints and pronouncements of Religion, she felt liberated, unburdened. Sometimes when people met her while they watched the sunrise over a tropical beach, Spirit glowed with glittering joy. Often people met her in their gardens, or when they held a newborn baby.
But Spirit found it harder and harder to reach people. They always seemed to have something else to do. If they were getting behind on their work, a couple of hours on a Sunday took care of that. There were trips to the mall to buy baseball shoes for Little League, and the lawn always needed mowing. Spirit noticed that when people met her on a walk through the woods, they stopped, enjoyed the moment, and then shook their heads thinking they were crazy and moved on. She heard people saying, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” and she wondered why they said that if they spent so little time noticing her. She began to ponder whether physical, earthy and practical people needed structure to remember to look for her. She realized that, without other people around to inspire and challenge them, people floundered, and then mowed the lawn.
Reuniting Spirit with Religion
Spirit sensed something missing, but she didn’t know what to do about it. She wanted to give people support for their questions, without judgment about their questions. She wanted people to take a journey that didn’t have a clear destination, and have someone walk along with them, not tell them where to go.
Religion sensed something missing, but he didn’t know what to do about it. Religion noticed that beautiful buildings weren’t good enough. Even though people couldn’t see Spirit, they sensed when she was gone. People didn’t choose to stay there anymore with only rules and no love.
Spirit and Religion realized that they needed to work together. Together they make a powerful team.