Episode 13 On Spirituality

One thing that helps us stay connected to our deepest values in my experience, is being connected to something larger than ourselves. By this, I don't mean connection to a human organization, though being part of an organization that does make a serious attempt to live by such deeper values can support each person in doing so.

But organizations are built and run by humans, and thus subject to serious failures as well as impressive successes in bringing people together to act in a way that makes the world a better place for all human beings. Private companies can make money in a way that benefits employees, customers, and the community around them, and they have been known to severely exploit workers, degrade the environment, leaving it for others to clean up or be made bankrupt by corrupt leaders who walk away richer from the experience.

Religions can motivate people to do much good in the world and can be sources of violent conflict and discrimination. So what do I mean by being connected to something larger than ourselves? I have two sources for what it means to me. My own experiences and what I absorb from my dad.

My adult sense of what being connected to something larger means is different than my dad's was. He did not believe in God, in fact, at different times, described himself as agnostic or atheist. I feel connected to what I would describe as an infinite beingness that is loving and knowing in ways that our human sense of love and knowledge are pale in comparison. I had some sense of that connection from a very young age, but didn't have a way to conceptualize it. In reaction to bad things I experienced many religious people doing, I claimed to be an atheist for many years. My dad was a scientist who nonetheless did and said things that I think indicated he had a connection to something. And I don't mean to say that in some way he actually believed in God. He didn't, but he did have a connection to something larger and it came in several forms.

One was his commitment to science. My dad was a physicist and he loved exploring the natural world. He got a master's degree, but never PhD. Perhaps that had something to do with the time and money it would've cost him and us, but he was in love with the laboratory. He worked extra hours doing the research and practical work that led to being the inventor of the shadow X-ray microscope.

He loved the work but didn't seek to become the manager. It was a connection to the science and engineering, the hands-on work that held his attention. Another was his work for the Boy Scouts of America. If he had been known as an atheist, he might not have been able to volunteer as a commissioner, which he did for many years.

He took us to the local Unitarian Church. Partly because there were other people like him who belonged to it. But I think he also liked it because the Unitarians would encourage the youth to learn about other religions and make up their own minds which one they wanted to join or or none for that matter.

And it was a good place for an agnostic or atheist to avoid discrimination because at least you were seen to be at church on Sunday. And he was able to be a Boy Scout commissioner doing work He loved. As commissioner, he helped to start many a Boy Scout troop, including in working class and rural areas.

And he was awarded the Silver Beaver, the highest award you can get as a volunteer in the Boy Scouts. He did this because he had a connection to nature, and living in nature that went beyond his science degree. He grew up on a farm and wanted every child to have the experience of being out in nature.

He wanted us kids to be drawn to a wonder of it. At one point, he did this by taking a gallon glass jar and half filling it with water from a nearby pond. It was somewhat greenish in color and had a few little tiny things floating around, and he put it in a south facing window that was bathed in sunlight much of the time.

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