It's such a threadbare and forlorn metaphor that I hesitate to use it, but summer is coming and summer makes me think of walks along the beach at sunset. And there, up ahead, is a lighthouse throwing out its revolutions of light. It's not a warning to those walking along the beach and it's not a brilliant and pure spotlight. It just flashes from time to time against the darkening sky ... around and around and around.
And I think that this is the case with the usual approach to spiritual life. It's important, perhaps, but it comes and goes and is crowded around with the other events and adventures of anyone's actual-factual existence. Sure, ministers and priests and mullahs and swamis may call spiritual endeavor a beacon or a salvation, but for most of us, it's an occasional matter: A dollar in the collection plate; a hymn that sounds pretty much like the one that preceded it; a prayer or two; a little cake and schmoozing after the service ... and then life's other adventures call out.
In sharper moments, perhaps the light is a bit brighter for a bit longer, but, well, let's not lose perspective -- there are soccer games the kids need to get to; there is business in the office; and the alternator on the car decided to give up the ghost.
I'm not trying to tease or criticize, but rather make an observation that may be too broad-brush. Still, I think it's pretty much true. Bright light in brief moments. And why should it be otherwise? Walking along the beach is pleasant at sundown.
Sometimes I find it curious that for pushing 40 years, not a day has gone by when, in one way or another, I haven't brought up some spiritual implication or conundrum in my own mind. And yet, during the same 40 years, another person may never have given such matters a thought. Or, perhaps, briefly gave it some thought on a particular Thursday afternoon, but then went back to walking on the beach.
Some will explain the spiritual impetus as a matter of "suffering" -- finding the uncertainties or sorrows of life compelling or perhaps overpowering. But my mind gets grouchy at such an explanation. Others may say it is "karma" -- the result of good or bad actions in the past ... but this too leaves me grumpy. More than an explanation or a meaning, I find myself wanting to bask in the interesting-ness of it all.
Who knows what lighthouse will offer the flash of light that excites an interest and determination and curiosity that is more than a mere flicker? Maybe poker or mountain climbing or motorcycles or love affairs or academic achievement or farming or drinking or ... who knows?
It's nothing unusual or elevated or even really holy.
But I think it's interesting.
Around and around and around.