The Exceeding Benefits of Humiliation

The odour of a foot is rank enough, but what about the taste?

Yet which one of us has not put our foot in our mouth, metaphorically of course (I personally lack the flexibility). The expression is apt, the feeling of saying too much and regretting it is foul and awful as an experience.

Is it not a delight, however, the power that this emotion carries?

I understand if you’re not on the same page yet, bear with me.

Of all the stupid things I’ve done it’s the ones with the most awful consequences that I was least likely to repeat. Take the time I fell six feet off the top of a skate park jump and landed on my hip: the resulting monstrous bruise and month-long soreness made me forever think twice about using my bike in the rain.

Now it is folly to suggest with this subject matter alone that this form of regret or learning is “delightful”.

Do not worry! The plot thickens when it comes to our human relationships.

As a waiter I witness daily how my actions affect others in a very real, fast paced environment.

One corny, ill-timed joke can put a funk on the client-waiter relationship indefinitely (or until they leave at least).

I have learned through repetition and by “putting my foot in my mouth”, what to say to what types of customers, and when to just keep my mouth shut, put the ketchup down, and walk away without a sound.

Fine and dandy, but aside from making good tips, no delight yet.

What about when it comes to those we love dearly?

To the mamas and papas, to the lifelong friends, to the brothers and sisters we hold so dearly?

Suddenly the taste of our foot takes a powerful meaning, and most important of all, a message.

As passionate, emotional beings it is easy to get our minds wrapped entirely around some agenda or topic. Through our passion blindness comes, and through this blindness a lack of capacity to interpret the responses we receive from others with accuracy.

Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows that when this state takes over all pandemonium breaks loose. Everyone is fighting for their point of view and no one understands the responses that are coming back.

Misconception leads to further mutual stubbornness, so on and so forth.

Usually, if calmer minds prevail, clarity returns, and with it more than likely a burning unpleasant feeling in the gut: what did I just say… what an idiot I have been.

In this moment however we grasp two very critical things: the importance of the other person to ourselves and the gravity of the fact that our words and actions profoundly affect the life of the other.

It is why the foot tastes most wretched when we hurt the ones who are closest.

Recently I have had a hearty taste and I can’t say that I like it.

In this state, however, my love for those I have offended has grown because my awareness of them has grown.

In accepting this pain, the tumult of humiliation, I am learning to take more seriously my relationship with the other, to cherish and to speak more carefully next time.

It is somewhat curious that although we all experience the pain and effect of others’ words, it is often a long and difficult road to realise how powerful our own words are.

Here at last is the delight.

The power of our words may be realised through acknowledging that we have used this power poorly.

In the same breath we may come to know that through this power comes the awesome capability to express our love, sorrow, forgiveness, and apologies. Our words may become a resting place, a refuge for a burdened soul.

So next time you find your foot in your mouth savour it a bit and meditate upon the reality you are living in. Know that it hurts because you are being called higher, to love more deeply! Take hold of the realisation that your words deeply affect those around you, and use it for good.


Individualism: The End of Meaningful Spirituality


I would like to take some time to explore the idea of a “personal spirituality.”

In order to achieve this end I feel it necessary to first cover the principals of the spiritual world at large. I believe this discussion is worthwhile because I believe it impossible for someone with a “personal” spirituality to have a meaningful spirituality.

The nature of the spiritual world can be mysterious.

We often forget, however, that many of the properties of the physical world still apply to the spiritual. As science is keen to inform us, just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean that it is not constant! Oxygen and the other gaseous particles that make up our atmosphere are the invisible, but testable materials that sustain every moment of our living.

The spiritual is neither irrelevant nor of secondary importance as it might seem. It is true that I cannot be hit by a spiritual bus or clobbered by a spiritual gang, and so the immediacy of the spiritual can be lost, but none the less it is very real, and very important.

Some theologians and philosophers have discussed in great detail the idea that the spiritual gives rise to all matter: in effect, everything contained in the universe. They explain that the spiritual gives birth, it is procreative, and not the other way around. In this sense, air is only responsible for sustaining the life we have, but without the spiritual we would not even exist!

The debate over proving the spiritual life with science is a foolish errand because it will never bear fruit. It can only be said that those who believe in the spiritual often have an incredible amount of certainty, despite having little to no shareable evidence outside of personal stories and experiences.

Where could such overwhelming certainty come from if not from personal experience?

If we are to come to terms with the existence of the spiritual then we must consider the nature of it, as a scientist considers the nature of the universe.

One of man’s most visceral connections with the spiritual is his morality, or sense of right and wrong.

I have chosen this point specifically because even the person who rejects both God and the spiritual world knows the longing of the conscience for justice, for example.

Because of the spiritual, we have supernatural good and evil: the cosmic struggle between these two forces is a stark reality.

The second very important aspect of morality is that it refers to our relationships: between ourselves, and most importantly with God.

Here in lies the efficacy and beauty of spirituality: it always involves sharing, community, and connectedness. Never is spirituality simply a personal experience (in the finite sense), but always one of mutual experience, a deepening of relationship.

We must choose the side to which we belong: good or evil. To ignore the clash altogether is, arguably, to choose the side of evil. With that said, I believe it is safe to say that the majority of people defend goodness whether consciously or not.

It is now that we enter the realm of Spiritual Warfare.

These are the raging battles of the soul, the perilous journey of a person’s will, their ability to choose.

There is a burgeoning spiritual movement of people who say things like, “I don’t follow any religion or teaching, I just have a personal spirituality.” In essence, this is the equivalent of a single person going out as a “personal army” against the entire military strength of Russia in the height of the cold war. Any given soldier is a sitting duck without the structure and discipline of an army. As individuals we are useless against an organized enemy.

Wise military leaders sow seeds of disunity amongst their opponents army; they attempt to set them against one another. An army that is divided is an ineffective army. In exactly the same way, a hundred thousand Spiritual Individualists will do less good in the world than a hundred united souls.

There simply is no such thing as a meaningful “personal spirituality” precisely because it is just one person on their own. They remove the most essential element of spirituality: relationship.

If we seek to create spirituality in our own image we will inevitably discover a distorted image of ourselves through this search. It is to go in a giant and endless loop always leaving and ending at the same place.

To find the spirituality which brings peace, beauty, joy, we must work together. We must discuss, talk, argue, embrace, and love.
Religious dogma is not oppressive so long as it is founded in truth. In fact, it is the exact opposite. In the same way that a manual for a band-saw both protects the user and ensures the best possible result from the work, so religious doctrine seeks to ensure the safety of the believer as well as guide them into the highest possible union, the highest possible joy.

People today want to simply choose the parts of the manual that seem the best to follow, and to omit the parts that are uncomfortable or unworthy in their eyes. They say, to heck with safety goggles, those are uncomfortable and sweaty. Not realising that having a wood splinter in your eye is far worse than any discomfort caused by the safety gear.

And so it is with our individualist spiritualists.

They pick and choose what sounds good, or feels comfortable, instead of seeking the truth of why these rules or doctrines exist. In the end, they undermine themselves, and the community as a whole.

Now, it can be argued, quite rightly, that in the realm of the spiritual there are several manuals for the same machine and that these manuals are conflicting.

All the more reason to read them and to discern what they say!

This discernment must never come from a place of taste or preference though, but from an in depth search into whether or not they contain truth.

We do have an ace up our sleeves, however.

God is here to help, to listen, and to answer.

Don’t believe?

In that case, what harm could it possibly do to speak internally to no one?

If there is anything I can say with certainty, it is that if you ask, and you listen to the response, He will answer.

Often times His answer comes in an unexpected way, but it always comes.