By Eric NelsonSome years ago, as I was walking through San Diego’s Balboa Park – the Spreckels organ pavilion to my back, the Museum of Art to my front – I found myself suddenly overcome by an almost overwhelming rush of gratitude that literally stopped me in my tracks. It lasted no more than 10 or 20 seconds, but within that brief moment it was as if everything I had to be thankful for, ever, paraded across my thought. My incredible family. My amazing friends. Opportunities to travel to extraordinary places around the world. My work, my home, my dog, my grade school teachers – you name it, I thought of it. All in under 20 seconds.
Even better than having so many things to be thankful for, however, was having something to be thankful to.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been inclined – by nature, I assume, but also through the encouragement of my parents and others – to see God as our always present and hugely generous source of good. Not material good, per se, but the kind of good that resides deep inside our hearts, unaffected and undiminished by whatever circumstances we might find ourselves facing that would try and convince us that, in fact, we have very little to be thankful for. A job loss. The passing of a loved one. Failing health.
Some might characterize this sense of God’s presence, God’s goodness, as nothing more than “peace of mind,” but I tend to think of it more in terms of divine assurance.
According to Krista Tippett, science is in the midst of a “renaissance.”
“Things like the Human Genome Project and the Hubble telescope, which brought amazing images of the galaxy into our living rooms, have contributed to our sense of awe,” said Tippett, creator and host of the “On Being” radio program, during an interview with Jenara Nerenberg. “We’re morphing to this place where science and scientists and scientific ideas are much more celebrated at the heart of our lives together, and everyone’s intrigued by them.”
Religion, on the other hand, appears to be in decline.
This is ironic, says Tippet, given that contemporary scientific exploration of things like awe and mystery and compassion – what Tippet singles out as “an urgent practical necessity” – is rooted in theology.
I suppose in some ways my own life mirrors this trend. Growing up I always thought that biblical teachings like the Golden Rule – “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” – were pretty compelling, if not downright awe-inspiring. Even better, the more I made an effort to put these teachings into practice – to be genuinely compassionate, grateful, forgiving, and so forth – the more natural they became and the better I felt….
Whenever he meets with a new patient, Harvey Chochinov likes to ask one important question: “What should I know about you as a person to help me take the best care of you that I can?”
It’s a question every doctor should ask, says Chochinov, author of “Dignity Therapy” and Director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit; a question he has found helps patient and doctor alike dial in to their innate spirituality, and in so doing, promote better health.
Even if spirituality is a word the patient is not accustomed to using or a subject the physician is averse to addressing, it doesn’t make it any less relevant. Defined by the American Academy of Family Physicians as “the way you find meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in your life,” spirituality is something that concerns all of us, and cannot be – must not be – easily dismissed.
The good news is that, increasingly, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are beginning to recognize the unique role they have to play in addressing the complexities of their patients’ lives, their fears, even their capacity to maintain a sense of connection with the divine during times of crisis. Although tending to such spiritual needs has long been considered the exclusive domain of chaplains
PETALUMA, CA, August 1, 2016 – Nearly 50 years ago, the psychedelic rock musical “Hair” proclaimed to the world that the proverbial “Age of Aquarius” had arrived, a time when we could all expect to see a heightened expression of peace, love, and spiritual enlightenment.
“Harmony and understanding / Sympathy and trust abounding,” sang the tie-dye clad cast during the opening number. “No more falsehoods or derisions / Golden living dreams of visions / Mystic crystal revelation / And the mind’s true liberation / Aquarius, Aquarius.”
As pleasant and as promising as this all sounds, even today, the notion that casual sex and hallucinogenic drugs – two of the musical’s major themes – might somehow play a role in achieving true enlightenment deserves further scrutiny.