An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 30, 2015
issued from Yaxunah, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

THOUGHTS ABOUT GROWING
SPIRITUALLY

Ever since I was a teenager I've thought a lot about what it means to be alive on Earth, what I'm supposed to be doing, and how I should be doing it. Very early I lost confidence in society's ability to offer good guidance on these issues. Eventually I decided that Nature could be a guide -- the "Nature as Bible" idea.

So, over the years, from Nature, I've accumulated a hodgepodge of what I think of as insights, and I've tried to live according to them. With my amateur philosopher approach, sometimes I think I've tackled the topic of ethical living the same unsophisticated but possibly serviceable way Grandma Moses handled painting pictures.

For example, one concept developed after many years of blundering toward it was one meant to help myself and others think about the what-am-I-supposed-to-be-doing matter. I call it The Six Miracles of Nature, and it's outlined at http://www.backyardnature.net/j/6/.

Lately I've been fine-tuning yet another homespun concept, one based on my own life experience as a human -- thus fitting into the "Nature as Bible" context, since I'm part of Nature. Maybe this second concept could be called the "Spiritual Growth Theory." Here are its basics:

We humans begin as babies totally preoccupied with our own wants and needs. As we grow we become aware of, understand, and develop empathy for others -- first our parents, then family, then community, on and on, our spheres of awareness, understanding and empathy -- which eventually I began thinking of as my single sphere of spirituality -- always enlarging into new realms. Enlarging, unless we stop maturing spiritually.

Most people do stop maturing spiritually at this stage, mostly because they become too busy with everyday life. Also, our societies encourage us to stay in this stage. They want us to procreate, and produce and consume goods and services, but they offer little encouragement for us to keep thinking and wondering. Religions provide guidance, but that guidance for the most part strikes me as inadequate.

My own experience is that my continually expanding sphere of spirituality -- having begun in the self-absorbed baby me -- eventually led to an identification with, and empathy for, things well beyond myself, my family, my community, my nation, and even "life on Earth."

In fact, a matured spirituality, I'm beginning to think, might even recognize ugliness, ignorance, hate and destruction -- along with their opposites and everything in between -- as unavoidable parts of the evolving universal system that itself is utterly awe-inspiring, beautiful and "good." The entire trajectory of a matured spirituality, it's starting to look like to me, begins with self, but ends face-to-face with everything outside of self, the One Thing.

Of course. this isn't a new thought for humanity, and I've seen it before in books, but after arriving at it by my own path, I can at least add my thoughts about it in my own words. Also, I think one is entitled to ask, after you've figure it out, so what?

Anyway, here's something important left out of the above discussion: During a person's latter years of spiritual growth, the body and mind deteriorate. Toward the end of the process -- if one is lucky enough to reach the end -- one does well to judge for himself or herself at what point the journey inside the body needs to end. As our bodies and minds degenerate in different ways, and we all have different circumstances and senses of dignity and propriety, each of us must make his or her own decision.

I have begun converting my BackyardNature.Net website into "The People's Backyard Nature Website." Once the website no longer requires my input, I may terminate these Newsletters and go "on the road," aspiring to the final stages of my own spiritual maturation.