Spirituality and Joy

So far, we have discovered in preceding posts that we can derive joy from work, joy from productivity, joy from additional rest or recreation enabled by productivity, joy from friendship, and joy from purposeful living.

In the discussion of possibility of joy from purpose, while purpose can have divine connotations — for those who subscribe to religion or spirituality — purpose is secular, as such within reach of everyone, atheist, pantheist, agnostic inclusive. Secularism of purpose derives from the fact that purpose enables joy only if we believe, with belief evident in actions, not words or scheming, actions which produce mastery of object of purpose. If Marie Curie did not spend any time at all experimenting in her make shift no-more-than-a-glorified-shed laboratory, there would not be any discoveries, there would not be any Nobel prizes in Chemistry and Physics. All that is necessary for actualization of purpose then is belief which translates into concerted, persistent, persevering action and effort. Not even the death of her husband could prevent Marie Curie from continuing her work such that five years after her loss, a second Nobel prize in Chemistry was within reach, attainable, achieved.

Having established secular nature of purpose, what then is value of layering of spirituality on purpose? What is value of subscription to characterization of purpose as having of divine origin or consisting of a divine quality?

If we admit secular nature of purpose, we first and foremost must conclude layering of spirituality on purpose cannot be about mere spending of time in prayer. Marie Curie, who was a practicing Christian, could not have won a Nobel prize via spending of 24 hours in prayer every day. She could have received belief or faith in possibility of her attainments while in prayer, she never could have achieved the purpose via mere spending of time in prayer. We have then that layering of spirituality on purpose implies dependence on some divine wisdom for ascertainment of, and maintenance of strength required for achievement of purpose.

Within context of ascertainment of purpose, the first and most important value of spirituality is presence of boundaries. True Spirituality excludes purposes that can be characterized to be deliberately callously hurtful to neighbors or other human beings. Purpose that derives from spirituality never attempts to enslave other humans, never attempts to subjugate others’ desire for self actualization. Lest I be misunderstood, attempts at subjugation cannot be interpreted to be equivalent to attempts at maintenance of comparative advantages. Purpose that is spiritual attempts to get better within context of its comparative advantages, attempts to maintain its comparative advantages, it however, never attempts to maintain or improve via oppression or repression. Purpose that is spiritual for instance can make the path to earning of a PhD difficult, such that only the most intelligent of society can achieve it. Such difficulty is spiritual because it is meaningless for quality of those who are satisfied with BSc’s to be no different from those who are satisfied with MSc’s to be no different from those who seek PhD’s. How exactly can PhD’s know better how to design curricula for BSc and MSc programs if they themselves are no smarter than their contemporaries who are satisfied with lesser degrees? Once achieved, all of the benefits of a PhD must accrue to those who demonstrate capacity for its achievement.

Illustration

Subsequent to the First World War, victorious allies imposed draconian penalties on Germany, penalties which generated extremes of economic difficulties for many Germans. In midst of German extremities arose Hitler pushing fascist ideology, promising relief from subjugation of rest of Europe. Informal negotiations between the United Kingdom and Hitler failed eventually resulting in Germany’s invasion of Poland, Austria etc.

If Hitler had imposed spiritual boundaries on his actions, on his purpose, invasion of Poland and Austria merely would have been bargaining chips for bringing all of Europe to the table for renegotiation of penalties on Germany, penalties which rendered economic growth and development extremely difficult. The invasions would be utilized for signaling to the rest of Europe, “we are not kidding guys, we need some relief, we need to renegotiate.”

When eventually the war ended in 1945, the objective I propose exactly was the outcome — allied forces’ realization that attempts at demonization of Germany merely would create fertile ground for another World War in near or far future. The focus post war turned to turning of Germany into a prosperous ally, not demonization of Germany for all of the pain and suffering caused the entire world. With millions of lives lost during the Second World War, demonization would have been easy, justifiably vengeful. Allied forces wisely realized it was best to be magnanimous, to give Germany opportunity to become a friend and ally, as opposed to a long term foe. Allies chose to build up a broken down Germany, as opposed to a focus on repression.

Spirituality creates boundaries, such that even when violence is deemed necessary for self actualization, ultimately the goal always is harmonious coexistence, harmony and peace made possible via renegotiation of terms of coexistence. Wherever necessary, the goal of violence which has its roots in spirituality is renegotiation of terms of coexistence, not a “winner take all” mentality.

Within context of presence of boundaries, we conclude spirituality of necessity implies morality — care for welfare of others — else it cannot be labelled ‘spirituality’. Given we all individually can choose morality, with morality famously and brilliantly encoded in those most famous of six commandments — honoring of parents, none stealing of others’ property, not committing adultery, not committing murder, not bearing false witness, and absence of covetousness for what belongs to others — morality is feasible outside of religion. We have then that absent religion, which in modern times can be construed to be attempts at formal organization of spirituality, both morality and spirituality remain feasible, accessible, achievable to every single individual on planet Earth.

If spirituality dampens, as opposed to accentuates joy we derive from purpose, spirituality becomes a force for evil, as opposed to a force for good. It must be the case then that spirituality that is beneficial for our well being, that is beneficial for our joy accentuates, amplifies, and has potential for keeping of our joy alive and well.

In my personal experience, faith in Jesus Christ is spirituality which enables secularist pursuit of purpose, provides boundaries required for meaningful exercise of spirituality, and possesses as part of its foundation uniqueness of purpose for every single believer in the name of Jesus Christ. Within context of faith in Jesus Christ, purpose is not achievable if believers do nothing. Purpose is partnership between Jesus Christ and the believer. Jesus Christ provides spiritual resources, which of necessity eventually transform into physical resources. Believers do the work in their respective professional or home spheres, exerting effort necessary for transformation of spiritual resources into visible physical resources, into achievements. We arrive then at second important benefit of spirituality, which is “spirituality provides access to resources only those who believe in a Spirit or spiritual creed can access.”

Spirituality enables access to spiritual resources deemed nonexistent by non-believers, but to believers are real, existent, beneficial for achievement of purpose.

If spirituality is not rooted in some evidence, it is mere belief in self masquerading as belief in a spiritual realm.

In so far as faith in Jesus Christ is concerned, we have the following as historical objectively verifiable facts.

Jesus was a real person born about 4 BC, crucified about AD 29. While Jesus claimed to be from God, He never ever throughout His time on earth demanded to be recognized as God, or worshiped as God. Jesus Christ provided no validation for worship of any human being as God.

Jesus did good, but was crucified because both Jews and Romans were afraid he would be deified by His followers, resulting in another god to be accommodated in the Romans’ pantheon of gods. The problem of course was contrary to just about every other self aggrandizing god in the Romans’ pantheon, Jesus preached self discipline, true humility, and love. The only way Jesus could be accommodated into the Roman pantheon was if all existing gods were dumped for Jesus Christ.

Regardless of His crucifixion, Jesus was deified by His followers, resulting in extreme persecution, of which 10 of his original disciples were killed in one form or the other; none ever recanting their belief in deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus relates with believers in form of Holy Spirit. In absence of a Spirit other than ours, a Spirit which can be regarded to be eternal, spirituality is mere belief in self.

By 100 AD, all of the New Testament Scriptures — Matthew through Revelation — already had been written and codified as Scriptures for followers of Jesus Christ. Within about 70 years of Jesus’ departure from earth then, all of the documentation of His life and teachings already had been codified by His followers, some of whom were part of His original disciples, e.g. Apostles Peter and John.

By 324 AD, the spirituality creed instituted by Jesus Christ became the official religion of the Roman Empire. But Secular Rome was not interested in dumping its pantheon of gods. Consistent with teachings of Jesus Christ, Constantine issued edicts dictating Romans who chose to remain pagans were not to be persecuted. In order to practice unrestrained followership of Jesus Christ, Constantine went on to found Constantinople. Constantinople was fusion of civic society and spirituality. The creeds of Jesus Christ were foundation of civil laws and interactions between citizens.

The civilization ushered in by faith in Jesus Christ as evident in City of Constantinople, seat of the Eastern Roman Empire would outshine every other civilization — Western Roman Empire inclusive — for about one thousand years. Faith in Jesus Christ produced unequaled wisdom, strength, beauty for over a thousand years.

Jesus Christ became epitome of the fact that it is not how we die that matters, rather it is how we live in context of affairs of life which determines the extent to which our time on earth is linked with eternity.

Jesus was crucified so He could not be deified. Jesus got deified anyway and within 300 years, without any threats of violence and through path of persecution of His believers won over practically the entire known civilized world. Jesus turned a persecuted, scorned set of people — people who believed in His divinity — into celebrated people.

There is evidence faith in Jesus Christ produces meaningful change in people, in societies. Rather unfortunately, children sometimes are not as believing as their parents, resulting in possibility of erosion of genuineness of faith in Jesus Christ over time. Constantinople eventually lost enough of the genuineness of its original faith that it ceased to produce the wisdom, strength, and beauty it was able to maintain for over a thousand years. But evidence of erosion of beauty simultaneously is evidence beauty once existed. Erosion does not negate existence, quite the contrary, erosion reinforces importance of what once was, yet now is not.

Faith in Jesus Christ is consistent with secularism of purpose, seeking of purpose within context of faith in God, and requirement of concerted, persistent effort and actions for achievement of purpose. Faith in Jesus Christ enables access to spiritual resources — power for right living, wisdom, peace, and joy — others deem non-existent. Faith in Jesus Christ I have discovered protects, helps maintain, and enhances joy made possible via pursuit of purpose.

For spirituality which enhances joy from pursuit of purpose, I recommend faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Amen.

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Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos