The Business of Spirituality
I can remember days when the simplest thing would set me to praise— sparrows alighting on forsythia, a certain slant of light beyond the roof. Too, I've had those moments when nothing seemed to penetrate; the most spectacular sunset only served to highlight a sinking feeling that had followed me through days or weeks. Worst of all, I've sat and watched the trees swing in the wind, my own spirit plagued by failure or disappointment over the world's tragedies, and I've wondered, "God, are you even there? Or is life just meaningless, something tossed about the way maple, pine and hemlock are just now flipping in the air?"
Most of us would recognize the first state of attentiveness and responsiveness as spiritual, vital. The latter two, we're not so sure.
Last week I started reading The Next Level, by James B. Wood, and I found comfort in the S-curve. Notes Wood, "The point of the S-curve is that growth is cyclical. Each period of growth is inevitably interrupted by a break, causing one curve to end and another to begin. The factors that contributed to a company's ascending the first curve are not the same ones required for it to climb the second curve. The first curve, if continued, will eventually lead to stagnation, deterioration, and ultimately death. Regardless of the amount of effort applied, the path of the original curve eventually peaks and declines. One cannot get from one level to the next by continuing on the same path."
We should not be surprised that when one curve begins to drop, "the growth of the next, and the void in between are focal points for tremendous personal and company stress."
I find this information comforting, because it suggests that conflict and despair can be signs of growth, in the sense that we're about to enter a new level, and thus are experiencing a requisite period of struggle. It also sets into question 1-2-3 formulas for spiritual growth— especially the thought that if you just keep trying, stay faithful to a particular mode of spiritual practice, all will eventually be well.
At least in the arena of business, Wood suggests we get to "the next level" by "generating new actions, adaptations and behaviors. A transformation, or reinvention, is necessary for survival." Perhaps this is true of spiritual life as well.
Lighthouse Window photo, by L.L. Barkat.