Human beings emerge from nature, our life supported and enmeshed in the ecosystem, and at the end of our life, we (or, perhaps, at least, our physical aspects) return to nature.
Our natural status does not erase the truth that each of us as persons possesses an ontological value, an inherent dignity, and a sense of worth that is grounded in our very being and is not merited or earned. We are beings of ontological significance – a dignity rooted in nature.
Love and justice are the proper responses to human dignity. Genuine love in all its forms implies self-donation or kenosis – it is through kenotic love that we find our deepest fulfillment and meaning. Forgiveness, mercy, love, compassion, and kindness are transformative. Yet while love heals and affirms life, it does not make things perfect.
Our earthly-bodily journey will end and no one knows what happens when we die. Yet we do know that wisdom lies in embracing the core spiritual truth that kenotic love opens us toward wholeness now – we need not wait for some sense of cosmic wholeness or salvation that occurs at our death. Whether any part of us endures beyond death remains a mystery.
THE HUMAN CONDITION
As persons we are unified, self-aware flesh. Our existence melds material and immaterial realities, and that the exact relationship of the mind-soul to the body is a mystery. As persons, we are inherently social, relational – our flourishing is interdependent on others flourishing as well.
Each of us is born with a treasure, an essence, a seed of quiescent potential, secreted for safekeeping in the center of our being – which some refer to as the soul. This treasure, this personal quality, power, talent, or gift (or set of such qualities), is ours to develop, embody, and offer to our communities through acts of service—our contributions to a more diverse, vital, evolved world. Our personal destiny is to become that treasure through our actions.
There is no chasm between God/Divinity and humankind, no rift, no cosmic debt – no unbridgeable gap. Our wholeness and thriving depends on self mastery and right relationship with other persons, all other life forms, and nature itself.
SEEKING WHOLENESS – HOW SHALL WE LIVE?
Humans experience the capacity of being called by something beyond ourselves, something that both speaks to our nature and is yet embedded there. In moments of quiet honesty, we find ourselves with a given orientation – and that orientation offers itself up as an approach to our better selves – it is the voice of our own objective nature calling us toward fulfillment. We understand this urging of our own nature as the foundation of morality and religious practice.
Morality is an integral part of our natural identity. Our moral responsibilities and rights arise from our nature (a reasoned teleological reflection on such) and our relationship to others. Moral truth is practical and entwined with human nature; good and bad are relative to human flourishing, and thus demonstrable, at least over the long term. Our motivation for virtue is a matter of our own integrity, following the logic of our very being.
The essential human challenge is to affirm our dignity and interconnectedness with others and nature and overcome our isolating, selfish “egocentric” tendencies. The path of life is this – we transform our ego and find wholeness and our right place in the world by living lives of kenotic love, caring for each other and the ecosystem.
When we give ourselves to realities that deserve us – we are returned to ourselves, toward a more whole way of being – reconnected to nature and others. Flowing from the insight we further grasp other foundational moral imperatives – care for the needy and lowly, seeking a just society, welcoming the stranger, and drawing in the unjustly marginalized. Kenotic love is vital to our wholeness.
We tend to deny our connectedness to others and to nature, which creates disharmony. Interconnected/Interdependent on one another, kindness and social cooperation make sense from a practical, evolutionary point of view – we can only truly thrive when others thrive – this insight is foundational for an integrated spirituality of wholeness.
The way to healing is through restoring healthy relationships, cultivating awareness of our interconnectedness with the ecosystem and the rest of the human family. Humans are capable of transcending ego and living lives of kenotic love in service and harmony with nature and others. We are fully ourselves when we give ourselves away to things that deserve us and reflect/enhance our inherent dignity. Our survival and thriving depends on such right relationships.
Much of spirituality is an exercise in orientation – seeking wholeness by keeping ourselves on a path of love and encouraging us toward self-mastery, self-correction, and self-development.
If the term “salvation” has any valid meaning, it is by understanding it as the totality of individual and collective actualization and fulfillment – it is an ongoing process of love, cooperation, self-improvement, and growth. Most importantly, salvation is something that happens now, in this life.
A MEANINGFUL LIFE
No one can force meaning onto another person. Part of our task in life is to wrestle with profound questions and formulate answers that satisfy us. Therefore, there is a legitimate and indispensable aspect of subjectivity and individuality to any theology and spiritual path.
Yet we can generally assert that a meaningful life involves the following, basic, overlapping concerns:
Belonging: We all need to find our tribe and forge relationships in which we feel understood, recognized, and valued—to know we matter to others.
Purpose: We all need a far-reaching goal that motivates us, serves as the organizing principle of our lives, and drives us to make a contribution to the world.
Mythic Narrative: We are all storytellers, taking our disparate experiences and assembling them into a coherent narrative that allows us to make sense of ourselves and the world.
Interconnectedness: We grasp the oneness and interconnectedness of all things – we see everything as connected and something vast and meaningful.