Here’s a short post for today, stemming from today’s Spirituality in Higher Education class.

We–whether as higher education professionals or just as humans–struggle with defining the word spirituality. Today, my class again addressed this difficulty. Our instructor mentioned that, at a recent conference, he was clued in on the phrase, “a dialogue on life.” The discussion continued, bringing in elements and ideas about balancing reality and desired peace and harmony, as well as generations’ different perceptions on existence and interaction. Something started stirring in me, and my first comment of the day was convoluted and, as usual, I trailed off, with a perplexed look. I could not quite place what I was trying to say, but the bits and pieces of the conversation were trying to synthesize together in my head.

As we transitioned into a new topic, the concept of wabi-sabi from Japanese culture, I desperately had to get to the ladies’ room. Between leaving the classroom and returning, something clicked. What I was trying to put together, fell together, and I’ll share it now. It’s rough, but it’s a starting point for myself.

Spirituality is…

Spirituality can be considered a way of developing a dialogue on life, encompassing connections (or disconnects) between the physical world, the supernatural and ethereal, and human beings and their societies. It may also encompass one’s search for meaning and purpose, and provide a way for framing and processing events, relationships, and transitions. The spectrum of spirituality and its intensity for each individual being is varied and fluctuating; some people may be devoid of assigning significant–or any–meaning to connections and higher powers, while others may find their life guided by their spiritual dialogues. Spirituality helps articulate the desired harmony and peace which may stand in contrast with the current state in the world, and how heavy that weighs in one’s life is primarily an individual choice.

One last thought: as the class went on, we talked more about the conflict between desired harmony and the harshness of the real world. It seemed like we were discussing it in binary terms, until a classmate suggested that harmony and complexity are not mutually exclusive. I nodded, and then offered my concurrence on basis of the following:

Harmony can be complex. Consider the works of great composers. Their orchestral suites, their symphonies–they are incredibly complex, yet they are some of the most beautiful creations in existence.

Living in harmony, therefore, does not mean we live without the need to try… and to fail…

and, ultimately, try again.

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