The late Senator Ted (the Internet is a “series of tubes”) Stevens once tried to push a bill through Congress that would have built a $398 million bridge in his home state of Alaska between the towns of Ketchikan (population 14,000) and Gravina Island (population 50) because the existing ferry service was considered inadequate. It became known as “The Bridge to Nowhere”.
Recently I listened to an Easter sermon by Dr. Jim Rigby in which he said that the Easter resurrection story only makes sense when we see ourselves as an evolutionary bridge between the life that came before us and the life that will come after and through us. In other words, the deeper message of Easter is that we are an evolutionary “bridge to somewhere”.
A bridge is not the destination. My life goes into a tailspin faster than Herman Cain’s presidential campaign when I forget this truth: The unfolding story of the universe is not about me. It is about the universe, about Life itself. If my molecules, my kindness, my work, my relationships in this brief lifetime bless some form of life beyond myself, then my body is, in a very real sense, resurrected.
A central failing of American Christianity (and of most spiritual practice in this country) is that we don’t care very deeply about anyone or anything beyond ourselves. We talk about heaven and the afterlife but show little concern for those going through hell here and now. We get our inner bliss on by meditating, aligning chakras, and pretzeling our bodies like yogis until we become oblivious to the pain in dilapidated apartment complexes across town. We worship superstar spiritual teachers but lack the humility to learn from a wise African-American cleaning woman we see every day. Such a religion/spirituality will always be characterized by fearful, narcissistic grasping. It is a self-centered bridge to nowhere.
Whatever our beliefs are about the afterlife, we can experience a bridge of connection that spans our differences and links us with life everywhere. Such a universal connection would include:
- Placing our individual lives in the context of the ongoing story of Life itself. Otherwise, talk of the afterlife is simply a glorified ego trip.
- Revolutionary, evolutionary practices done individually and in supportive communities where we break the trance of myopic navel-gazing and get real with each other.
- A mindful awareness about how our daily choices affect the people we live and work with, cashiers and waiters that serve us, impoverished women in Latin America who make our clothes, children yet unborn in Asia, and species in the Pacific Ocean yet to emerge.
In this kind of spirituality, anxious grasping for the afterlife transforms into a conscious connection with the Spirit of LIfe here and now. The isolating hell of “me, myself and I” becomes a resurrection in which I find myself by losing myself in something grander than myself. The tragedy of my finite existence becomes a celebration of my unique chapter in life’s everlasting story. A bridge to nowhere becomes a bridge to somewhere.
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