Thursday, January 27, 2011

beginning the journey

Hi.  My name's Nick MacDonald, and I'm a student of theology, a musician, and a teacher.  This blog serves as the journal I am expected to keep as a part of the course entitled "Spirituality in the Contemporary World" (since I was so very inspired by Professor Pui Lan's artful introduction of the art of blogging!).  What a wonderful way to share our inspirations and musings with one another.

I was struck as the first class unfolded, as I'm sure many were, with how incredibly relevant the material we will cover is to our lives as seekers of something greater, a purpose, a meaning that goes beyond words.  I have recently finished Harvey Cox's The Future of Faith, which gives voice to this pervasive need for an injection of spirituality into religion.  I see spirituality as a way of life, an orientation toward ourselves and each other that focuses on wellness, love, compassion, and a cultivation of a sense of the sacredness and interconnectedness in every moment.

Growing up in a Unitarian Universalist fellowship, I must admit that I have been surprised that this does not seem to already be the primary focus of many religions today.  This is not to say that UU's have it figured out (by any stretch of the imagination!), but like many people in search of religion I grew up with the feeling that our faith and philosophy show most clearly and most importantly in how we act toward others and ourselves.  In many of us there is an urge inward rather than upward, a need to build community from the inside out, rather than from the top down, and the desire to take responsibility, expand consciousness, and work toward an implementation of our values and principles in our thoughts, actions, and relationships.

In this class I look forward to expanding my understanding of what spiritual practice is, what it can be, and how to facilitate others in building their own.  As for me right now, I have no specific spiritual "regimen," in part because I believe every thought and every action, in its essence, when divested of its pretense to mundanity, is a meditation, a prayer, a powerful opportunity to tap into the sacred.  All of life is sacred; the kingdom of God is spread among us, only we do not always see it.

Of course, this paradigm of Gospel eyes (which I sometimes like to call Creative Consciousness) is still something for which I strive, and this striving involves primarily the immersion of myself in certain practices--the most pervasive and powerful of which is music.  Singing, playing, teaching, creating and otherwise experiencing the aural arts is deeply tied not only to my vocation but also to the sheer pleasure of living.  It provides joy in times of celebration, solace in times of despair, and peace in times of contemplation.

I believe a good soundtrack is all you need to reveal the beauty inherent in any moment.

In spiritual practice I seek an opening of myself to new possibilities, an engagement with the creative impulse that animates all things.  Sometimes church will do this; more often it can be found with the people I love, the art I pursue, the spontaneity of travel (staring out the window of a bus or train is remarkably centering to me), or the comfort of a coffeeshop and a notebook.

I so look forward to exploring the endless ideas of what spirituality entails.  I know we will all learn so much from each other, and I hope we will be surprised and enriched by both our similarities and our differences.  In this course I do expect to encounter the spirit-- in each of us and all around.    


  1. Thanks so much for sharing with us your rich religious heritages last week. I especially like what you said here about engagement with the creative impulses. I hope that there will be opportunities for you to share with us your love of music.

  2. Thank you! I'm excited to make music and sing together too. This has been really fun to start a blog as well; I usually keep a journal, so it's a nice next step/extension of that practice.