For decades now my Sunday morning ritual has typically been walking or gardening. I believe that by staying off the religious road I have found a more spiritual path. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking that I might go to church if I could find there what I find so readily on walks, in the garden, or in the arts: and that is something new, something realized, or unexpected.
For example: at this month’s graduation speech at the UW’s Foster School of Business, the student speaker quoted the poet Mary Oliver with the line, “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” And last month at “Resonance,” a Seattle Pro Musica concert in St. James Cathedral, we witnessed the world premiere of “I Sing Love,” a choral hymn by Bernard Hughes embracing Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Remarkable moments like these are not only what I most love in life, they are what I live for!
Through love bitter things seem sweet,
Through love copper becomes gold.
Through love dregs taste like pure wine.
Through love pain is as a balm.
Through love thorns become the roses,
Through love vinegar becomes sweet wine.
(Excerpt from “Two Wings to Fly,” written by Jalal ad-Din Muhammud Rumi)
Just as love is spoken in many languages, I see the world’s religions as different expressions of the same thing. So I believe in it all. Walk into my writing room with me for a moment. A collection of antique Santos and a stone Buddha sit upon the writing table, silent and nonjudgmental. I could never write with anyone but Buddha and saints looking on. Crosses hang around the neck of the tallest Santo. Milagros and crucifixes adorn the walls, a reproduction of a Hindu temple carving that was given to me, a handmade candle from the Holy Land, a Wiccan wreath from Salem, Massachusetts, a Native American dream catcher hangs in a window, and a Tibetan prayer flag drapes in a corner. Initially I strung the prayer flags across the room but it looked too much like a gas station.
Despite all the icons, it makes perfect sense that I would wind up in The Pacific Northwest—a region so secular, it’s almost European. One Sunday morning a Seattle friend and I were walking and the subject of religious intolerance came up. She is agnostic, and you know me, I don’t declare myself anything. The insufferable Republican primaries were raging at the time and about to swing through the South, where many of the Evangelicals were having a “problem” with Romney’s Mormon faith. As outsiders, I can’t tell you how provincial and tribal this looks! Ironic, isn’t it, that it falls on people like us to be the most religiously tolerant in all the land? I mean, we don’t care if you are Muslim or Mormon or what-have-you. And I’m proud of that.