The other day I was at the dinner table with a group of talky people, most of whom I was related to. The conversations to my right was about spirituality.
“Spiritual work [on yourself, I think he meant] is the most profound work you can do,” my relative claimed.
I’m about as spiritual as your average tree-hugging atheist. Probably less so. I was raised as a secular Jew, became an atheist at 17, and have never looked back. I try to be a good person most days, I love rivers and mountains and stones and woods, but the word “spiritual” isn’t in my vocabulary.
You know what I like better than spiritual work? Sonnets. But I know there are very very few people in this world who give a shit about sonnets. So I don’t talk about sonnets, which are intensely important to me.
And I quietly remember my viola teacher in college who said, “Don’t tell my husband, but I like string quartets better than anything else in the world.” She would understand. (Aside: violas are more obscure than sonnets.)
I am happy that the person at the table has spiritual work. I am glad people are religious, as long as they aren’t being assholes about it. Some of my best friends are married to preachers!
But the thing I find irritating is the utter confidence with which he made that claim. I know line breaks, meter, and metaphor won’t save the world. But it saves my world. What if I had said to him that I thought sonnets were the most important work in the world? He probably would have laughed in my face. (I don’t really think sonnets are the most important work in the word, but it is some of the most important work that I do.)
I wonder if he thinks about other work that is important. I wonder why this overheard comment still bothers me. Is spirituality privileged? What do you think? What bothers you?