An oft-quoted maxim says: We’re not human beings having a spiritual experience. We’re spiritual beings having a human experience. People can debate the various nuances of the terms human and spiritual, but there is something going on that seems ingrained in our DNA.
Part of a graduate school course I took decades ago was to observe an autopsy and then reflect on the experience. After having spent a year of my life in an active combat zone, seeing a dead body was nothing new or startling. And reaching back in memory to an undergraduate course in anatomy, I was keen to locate and identify the various internal organs. Thinking about it later, I was struck by the fact that halfway through the examination it had never occurred to me that it was a human being lying on the table. Further contemplation resulted in the realization that whatever made that assemblage of chemicals a human being . . . was no longer there.
In 1956 the Modernaires cut a record whose lyrics artistically cataloged the components of an average human being and what they would cost at a chemical store: “Ninety-eight cents worth of elements / a bucket of water and a pinch of lime / a shaker of salt worth maybe a dime / calcium carbonate and a touch of cobalt / a spoonful of sugar to sweeten the salt . . . etc.” What one is as a person is something distinct from the physical which is housed by a concoction of chemical elements for a time. Use whatever terminology suits – spiritual, metaphysical, supernatural, mystical, suprahuman, psyche, soul, spirit, inner self – but to neglect the nurture of such is dangerous business.
From time immemorial, human beings have sensed the reality of the spiritual dimension of life, and the importance of cultivating it. To disregard this core part of one’s being is folly. It is akin to spending copious amounts of energy and money on an automobile’s exterior, interior, sound system, added accessories, etc. and never attend to the engine’s required regular maintenance. Before long, the vehicle simply will not start.
To handle whatever might come our way in life, and to experience all of life to the fullest, finding and purposefully walking one’s own spiritual path is critical to well-being.