There was a time when I was an explorer.
Curiosity drove me to learn about all kinds of things – not just idle curiosity, but the need to know. The pleasure of finding things out, as Richard Feynman put it, to solve mysteries, to explain things. Practically everything interested me to one degree or another. Many of the things I learned I wanted to learn so I could put them into practice. Many I learned just because I enjoyed learning about them. Many I learned so I could use them in my writing. Still more so I could pass them onto others.
I’m still curious, and I still love learning. I still have the desire to figure things out and use things in writing and pass what I learn on to others. But somewhere along the line I stopped being an explorer.
I think there are a lot of reasons for this, most of which can wait for later posts so they don’t bog this one down. This one is just me waving hello, introducing myself (sort of, since I plan to keep the blog anonymous), and explaining the blog’s title. But what it boils down to is that I’d stopped somewhere in the last few years, coming to the conclusion that it was pointless, or hopeless, or that I wasn’t a good enough person to make all that exploring worthwhile.
Most of all, I stopped exploring my spiritual side, which had been something deeply important to me since childhood. There were reasons for this too, which I’ll also delve into another time. But the point is that while I never stopped believing certain things – questioning and doubting often, yes, but never outright disbelieving – I stopped pursuing anything spiritual, particularly when it came to incorporating my beliefs into my everyday life.
I’d stopped exploring anything spiritual so thoroughly that I no longer even questioned why I stopped, or seriously considered trying again. Scratching the surface of just thinking about getting back into it felt overwhelming, and again, pointless. On top of which it would be almost wholly a solo journey. Outside of one person, my mother, I knew of no one close by who believes the way I do, that I could share this with, and am married to someone who is actively hostile towards and mocking of my beliefs.
But then a longtime and much-loved friend – who I’ll call Alexandra to protect her identity – began opening up to me again about her beliefs, which often mirror mine, as we discussed our first bit of in-person time together in over ten years. She and I have been close friends for over half our lives, despite living a great distance apart for much of that time, and she’s someone that I trust deeply. Her talking about it so openly with me threw open floodgates I’d kept barricaded for years. In very short order I was no longer able to shove my own spiritual beliefs to the side.
Explore or die is what my instincts started telling me. Not a literal physical death, but I’d been wasting away in other ways for a long while now, and to keep ignoring spirituality after that floodgate opened would be letting myself wither with my eyes wide open.
That’s what this blog will be about: trying to restart, or kick start, my spiritual journey, along with anything that might be even tangentially related. I don’t know how well I’ll keep it up – my personal writing, be it online or by hand, hasn’t been altogether successful these last few years. But having a friend walk with me or close by may certainly help.
So, to the title of this blog and this entry.
I’ve been attracted to three sorts of physical settings for most of my life, and I also think of them as spiritual metaphors. To wit:
THE MONASTERY. A place of prayer, study, work, contemplation, and like-minded community. Being apart from the outside world but also part of it when need be.
THE ISLAND. Solitude and isolation, but also sometimes enforced isolation in being surrounded by water, and much harder to retain your connection with the outside world.
THE HERMITAGE. Again a place of solitude and isolation, but in physical terms, somewhere that can be anywhere, from a house atop a mountain to a single room in an apartment. It’s as much a mindset as a location.
These three can be totally separate, or mixed or matched, or sometimes all three could be the same thing. At one time or another I’ve sought one or the other; I’ve come to the point now in my life where I’m seeking all three in one.
The problem is that depending on your perspective any of them can be peace or a prison, and lately they’ve started becoming more confining than liberating. And I’m looking for a a way to change that – to still seek out the best of what they promise.
Of course, as places, or as spiritual states, they’re neutral. It’s what I bring to them that makes them what they are.
And figuring out what I bring to them, why, how to accentuate the positive and drive back or eliminate the negative, is where I want to go with this blog from here.