In Proximity to Spirituality: Where Do You Find Yourself Gravitating Too?


ProximityProximity. In the greatest sense proximity is a word we use to describe and measure the closeness or distance between us and someone else; the space between two groups or objects; the liberty or time between two naturally existing identities. In Aikido we call it maai which is often used to describe the proper distance between the uke and the nage or the first and second mover. The practice of maai is however far deeper then that and considered a philosophy which encompasses not only the physical acts we commit but the thought patterns and spiritual constructs to which we engage in.

John Minford articulates a case for proximity which has really engaged my thoughts over the passed few days after I was reading his commentary on Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ at the outrageous hour of 3 am one night after being unable to find sleep. He writes:

This fragile equilibrium between action and nonaction, between sensitivity to the signs of what is and the will to engage it, expresses a fundamental dichotomy that underlies so much of early Chinese thinking about the management of human affairs in general, be they military, civil, or personal, be the philosophical standpoint Taoist, Confucian, or some other “nondenominational” strand in Chinese philosophy. It finds its earliest expression in that monumental repository of early Chinese thought ‘The Book of Changes’, whose entire premise is that it is possible to see into potential changes before they occur, to grasp the subtle configurations of Yin and Yang and thus attune oneself to the energy at work in the world around us…

Marcel Granet adds, “They lived in a state of constant revolutionary expectancy. They were preparing themselves to occupy the seat of the Son of Heaven, that is to say, to impose a new order on a civilization. And so the slightest change could mean total change; and seizing the slightest sign of change was tantamount to seizing the opportunity of bringing about total change.”

John Minford – Potential Energy in ‘The Art of War’ 2003 (Page 161)

Buddhist MonkIt seems to me then that the perfection of proximity is not so much in the quantifiable facts of its existence but rather in the acknowledgement and practice of the potentiality of movement within each and every moment or instance in which we find ourselves in proximity or relationship to that of another identity or perception. How close or how far we find ourselves from any one person, place, or time is not as important as how we engage the possibility of movement towards or further away from them.

What does this say then about the proximity in which we find ourselves engaged with God’s voice in our life? How do we treat the potentiality of movement between us and his presence within the daily time frames? Is our proximity to spirituality gravitating towards the following and lordship of Jesus Christ? Do we find our potentiality in movement becoming closer and more personal to the nature and likeness of the Jesus we claim to be following?

Last night my friends Myles, Doug, George, and myself piled into my van as we headed north to the small City of Airdrie. We were going to hear Rik Emmett and Dave Dunlop play live at the Bert Church Theater. In honesty, I first thought it was going to be a church but in actuality it was a small little amphitheater seating 100 people at most. It was diminutive, intimate, and created an atmosphere which fostered a closeness to everyone that was there. This proximity in the moment electrified the air, charging it with such energy that the music became more then just simple talent. It was transformative and introduced a kinship of appeal which the four of us could share in. In essence it was a proximity to spirituality to which each of us was a part of and experienced.

Postmodern CrossIn Luke 5:27-32 there is a story of when Jesus called the tax collector Levi (or Mathew if you prefer) to be his disciple. Jesus walked over to a small tax booth, looked Levi in the eyes and said, “Follow me.” This was a personal call that Jesus had for Levi and he meant it within an intimate context. It was a context which generated an electrifying atmosphere which compelled Levi to move and transform his whole life; to reconstitute and bring a new order to his understanding of civilization and existence. It wasn’t Mathew’s character that drew Jesus to him. It wasn’t anything about who he was then in that moment; his physical or social stature; his mental thoughts, beliefs, or philosophies; or even how righteous or spiritually holy he considered himself to be. It was the potentiality for movement that brought his proximity to Jesus!

Where do you find yourself in proximity to Jesus? What potentialities exist in your life which can bring you closer intimacy and personal connection with his existence in reality? How do you express and communicate movement towards your spirituality?

The Strung Out TroubadoursThe Strungout Troubadours with ‘Three Clouds Across the Moon’

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3 thoughts on “In Proximity to Spirituality: Where Do You Find Yourself Gravitating Too?

  1. I would think that proximity to the idea that Jesus is the Christ would have to be a poor measure of spirituality. Most of the religious world is non-Christian, and not all Christians believe that Jesus was a superhuman Entity.But it would be a good measure of one’s acceptance of the Church’s central doctrinal understanding of Jesus.

  2. Paul, I must admit to it being difficult for me to respond to this through a simple post entry as I much rather the relational constructs of time and the proximity of face to face. I will give it my best go though…

    You are right in seeing that through the scope of religious practice Christianity has a smaller group following compared to that of other world perspectives. This is no surprise to me. However, I personally do not see the connection of the measure of truth being objectively recognized through a democratic or “my group is bigger then your group” practice of acceptance. This is again a misconception to the picture of proximity which I was trying to articulate.

    Jesus’ question was personal, intimate, and contextualized by the fact that only the individual can answer it. My hope is that we can all answer it within an authentic manner; one which is not tainted by religious, political, denominational, organizational, or dogmatic ideologies (Christian or not!).

    Let’s look at it for a moment from the other side. What brings Jesus into the proximity of YOU? If we quantify Jesus by the traditional religious construct of “Church” and ritualistic right then we can measure it by the distance between you and the closest church building. This seems to miss something though when we consider the understanding of proximity which I wrote about earlier. Where is the energy of an incarnational movement? Where is the personal and intimate connection? Jesus asks the question of “Who do YOU say that I am?” and he does not want the Churches answer; the accepted dogmatically correct and “right” answer! He wants YOUR answer with the underlying understanding of the movement behind it in any given moment or situation!

    The beauty of this question comes in its holistic transcendent understanding or nature that it has in constantly being asked throughout each and every day of our life. I can read a Buddhist text and again the question comes up, “Who do you say that I am?” Watch an entertaining movie with my wife and again, “Who do you say that I am?” Or as above, go to a concert with my friends and again, “Who do you say that I am?” No matter how far or how close I am the personal and intimate connection is always present!

    Is Jesus just a human being or is he something more? Is he “superhuman” as you said? I wasn’t attempting to answer either of these in my description of the potentiality of movement in proximity to spirituality. But since you brought it up, how would you answer those questions? What shapes those answers? How do those “shaping” elements/identities affect the proximity or energy of movement to which you and an understanding of life, faith, spirituality, and personal identity have? What is the difference between those elements/identities and that of the character and life of Jesus (human or superhuman)?

    If you are familiar with Sun Tzu’s philosophies I might compare it to his principles behind direct and indirect energy. Be careful not to find yourself guarding the back entrance (indirect/full) expecting God to come from a philosophical distance when you might miss the open front gate entrance (direct/empty) that he may have already taken (Phil 2:1-11)!

    I really thank you for your thoughts and would enjoy hearing your reflections to these questions. I realize that often our proximity to suffering (physical challenges) can be both inspirational and challenging when considering our own individual spiritual walks. It is truly a “gospel” encounter when we find fellowship within that nature!

  3. Erik

    I had an experience in 1996 when I decided that I would yield to fate respecting a career change that was being imposed on me at the time. I could have resisted change; I could have declined the offer and waited for something else, or I could have quit and sought work elsewhere. It was a stressful time for me, but I decided to “go with the flow”. It also came into my mind at the time, that as long as there is need in this world, there will always be employment. A person might have a cash flow issue, but unemployment is really a state of mind. So I did not resist, one door closed on me, but another one opened. I would not have linked it in anyway to Christianity at the time, but in hindsight I honestly feel it was a pivotal moment in my life where I loosened my grip on “self”. Since then I have been blessed in so many ways I will not even list them all, but the greatest of them is my coming to recognize what I believe to be the working of the Holy Spirit. Since then I have been moving in a direction of surrender such that today I recognize that every issue we grapple with in this fallen world is a spiritual issue and needs a spiritual solution, and that solution is His Word. So this relates in my opinion to your thoughts on proximity, because if we release our grip on everything we think we need to hold on to, the gravitational pull of Truth will sweep us into God’s open arms.

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