Is spirituality just religion, underdeveloped – practice, purpose, calm, ritual – all the good things of religion taken out of context? A device deliberately unplugged from the throngs and their strength-in-numbers?
While people in developing countries (where a good wage is a hundred dollars) spend tens of thousands building temples and making offerings to protect their family from harm – detached from these strict roots, I simply wear bracelets.
Is spirituality those many and absurd habits we must partake in or risk feeling suddenly open to the strong and vague jaws of a horrid, wide-open, hair-splitting ambiguity?
The starkest claustrophobia and true freedom are one and the same: the final boss in this video game is you, yourself.
Spirituality is aspiring (and perhaps only that) to return to strength and peace and echoes of the calm singularity. It is aestheticism and fetishism – animism – burning incense, candles, listening to endless music, wearing bracelets. Without it, the world is drab and WYSIWYG.
Driving to Ubud, a Balinese man stops to ask if I need directions. I tersely tell the local man I do not need his help, and thanks. He asks me where I’m from, and how long I’ve been in Bali – with the usual unfeigned impartiality of half-shut eyes. I respond to him like a robot as all strangers here start a conversation the same bloody way – perhaps only to listen to the tone of your voice, your tested patience – no, not the specifics!
Finally, just as the traffic light was changing, he touched my bracelet.
“Why do you wear these? Is it because they keep you safe?”
“You’re right,” I said, laughing.
There was a pause as we realized the deeper themes of our commonalities, the projection of my impatient self-image, the unapproachable facade of faces in traffic, the meaningful underworld of our tired words – and our two, tired worlds, overlapping around my wrists.
This man’s freedom of curiosity contrasted with my frightened need to pedestrianize as we drove off on our little scooters.