Friday, March 03, 2006

Terry Tempest Williams, and more on nature and spirituality

You know, thanks to Kristin I have been thinking a lot more about the idea that we discussed somewhat in class, about a genetic need for spirituality. On the one hand I have a hard time believing that could be true--in my mind, everyone has a need for something spiritual, to believe that there's something greater than themselves out there. Whether they run from that feeling or embrace it is a different matter.

I have never been one to boil everything down to genetics--in the nature versus nurture debate, I tend to think that our culture and values and a lot of our personality get stamped on us when we are young. Certainly there is a hereditary factor--a huge one. I always thought identical twin studies were cool, and it amazes me to hear stories about identical twins who were separated at birth growing up apart yet living radically similar lives. But when I think about spirituality, a lot of people who are raised in very spiritual environments turn out to embrace spirituality themselves. Is that because of genes? Or is it because of the way they were raised?

My parents profess little or no need for God--they don't go to church and at times have actually discouraged me from going to church. The certainly don't see the value in prayer, or see any sense in trusting God. My grandparents? My mom's parents, and my dad's mom, have all been faithful churchgoers at some point in their adult lives. Both of my parents were raised in the Southern Baptist church. If spirituality were in our nature, then what happened with my parents? Did that need for God skip them and resurface in myself? I don't know--that's definitely a possibility. What I tend to think, though, is that my parents were raised in the post-World War II era, during the Cold War, when people were taught that hard work and success were a way of life. I think people to some extent were conditioned to fear--and I think fear ultimately leads you to turn inward to find answers, because it takes an awful lot of faith and trust to turn outward and find answers in the spiritual realm. My grandparents stopped going to church at some point when my parents were still young, and it wasn't until their old age that they returned. And then what happened with me? I don't know when my need for God surfaced and I really started seeking after something consistent to bind the universe together. But I remember feeling that it was the answer I always knew, and had just turned my face away from for so long. I have definitely needed God all my life. I personally feel that most people, if they could really search themselves objectively, would admit the same thing.

I have thought a lot about Terry Tempest Williams in exploring this idea. Here is a woman who is deeply rooted in the Mormon faith, deeply spiritual--she clings to faith, to spirituality. No doubt that need arose from her family--but was it the nature or the nurture? You cannot separate her from the genes that her parents gave her, nor can you separate her from the Mormon culture in which she grew up. Is there a genetic need for spirituality? I cannot be sure.

Speaking of Terry Tempest Williams, I want to talk so much more about Refuge. But I don't have time to go into that right now. What a beautiful, moving book! That's all I will say, until this weekend.

1 comment:

Right Hand Burning said...

I'm so glad that you are interested in art, too! I'm really into it...

Impressionism and I have an interesting background; my mother is an impressionist artist-- that's her job-- so I grew up understanding the only art to be impressionism. Of course, this isn't true, but for a while, I became rather sick of art... then I became an art history major and fell in love with it.

Personally, my favorite sort of art is conceptual art from the 1910's-1950's... You might be able to tell this by the image that I have on blog right now, a spacial construction by Naum Gabo, in which Gabo used string and wood to simulate solid space. I'm also a big fan of the New Zealand artist Neil Dawson.

But on to art, nature, and spirituality... I guess spending a lot of time every day thinking about these three things (as an art history major, a runner, and a Christian these are pretty much the only things on my mind) makes me really want to synthesize them into a format that I can understand. The problem is, my mind is so small, and God's mind is so big, that I'm stuck looking at all of this in terms of genetics and the hierarchy of art and I can't comprehend the great super-structure God's got going on to explain it all. I know it's there, I can feel it, I can read about it the Bible, but it's just beyond my grasp. There's a verse about that, I think... Psalm 139, maybe? Yes, 139:6 "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it."

I'm not sure what to think about the genetic spirituality thing, still. I guess if we wanted to talk science, we could say something regarding the expression of genes... maybe its a sort of gene that everyone has, but it is only expressed in certain people, based on both their parents' genes and also their environment... From this I suppose we can misuse Darwin's ideas to say that if this gene for spirituality is present, and passes on generation to generation even if it isn't present in all, then obviously it must be necessary for survival, otherwise it would have been annihilated... I don't know, though... it is something to think about.

I'm really thinking about spirituality a lot right now because I am getting baptised in two weeks. Part of the baptism process involves filming a video (a short one) to publically declare dependency on Christ. Then, the whole church (and then on Easter, my church here in Athens) watches that video. It's really interesting trying to take all of these thoughts and condense them into four minutes or so. Where do I begin? How do I tell a story that took 21 years to create in a video that will take less than five minutes to film...
I'm not really sure for now. I guess I'll just see what comes to me over the next few days. I'd really love to talk about joy, and running, and mountains on sunny days, and mountains any day, and Arizona, and nature... but that's going to be rather time consuming.

Well, now it's time for my "nature-time" of the day, as I have to go to running practice now, but this discussion shall continue later...