When we want to know about someone’s spiritual beliefs, we most often ask them exactly that: What do you believe? But that question can be so difficult to answer sometimes, and we’ve seemingly settled on a two-prong approach (here’s a summary of dogma, and here’s what that means is wrong with the world) which doesn’t actually give much insight.
What if, instead of asking for a statement of belief, we asked people what they celebrate? What’s important to them? How do they celebrate those important things? And not just the traditional celebrations or the ones you make a big fuss over. If we look at the things which make people stop and mark a moment it says a lot about what is truly important.
What things are so important that you take time off work? What is cause for a big feast or the giving of gifts? When do you invite people to spend time with you? What things make you willing to change your routine to mark the occasion? What dates do you always remember as significant? What makes you dance? What makes you dress up? What makes you shut off your phone so you won’t be disturbed?
Those things which prompt us to stop everything and pour effort into exuberant festivities tell a lot about what we want out of life, what we strive for. All those things we look forward to celebrating, the weddings and holidays and important life milestones, represent our ideals. But the smaller observances are important too, and give a more detailed and nuanced view of how we approach life. Those reasons we use to justify a night out with friends, an expensive meal, or an indulgence in a pastime we rarely participate tell us a lot about how we want our lives to be.
Isn’t it possible that this is the entire point of spirituality? That our spiritual lives are, at their root, a collection of important ideals and ways of celebrating or honoring those ideals? That the whole reason humans need spirituality is because it paints a picture of the life we desire and then actively engages us in celebrating that image?