Humanist Spirituality, a Primer

Humanism is the practice of taking a rational approach to improving the problems of the world and finding our place in it. Spirituality usually means adherence to a faith based belief, some explanation of the cosmos which fulfills a deep human need, but which is ultimately unprovable. So the idea of a Humanist Spirituality doesn’t make sense. Right?

The need for understanding the big picture is universal. Mystery and awe are spices which our psyches need to balance the crusty, pedantic reality we face daily. The purpose of religion and spirituality is to fill those needs. My question is, must spirituality imply belief in something non-empirical, non-observable?

Buddhism is a good example of a rational, empirical spiritual practice. There are no gods, no dogma, yet there is much description of valid and attainable truths, culminating with enlightenment. Yoga has a similar spiritual component, as does Taoism.

Paganism, though commonly debased and dismissed, has great validity, especially today. We busy ourselves with progress while our planet is being destroyed by corporate greed and consumer blindness. Teaching a humble respect for Mother Earth as a primary rule of a healthy spirit might help turn the tide.

All the above traditions have irrational components, remnants left over from cultural traditions long outdated and disproved. But each one has a valid sense of the human need for connection to something greater than ourselves and liberation from the suffering of life. Rationality fails to take us beyond a certain point. Humans need some kind of poetic and comforting practice through which to understand or at least fathom the mysteries beyond rational analysis.

Perhaps a hybrid of the two might fill both requirements. A set spiritual practices based on physiological knowledge of the need for mystery would be a beginning. The next might be to include a set of affirmations like the ones chosen by the Humanist Society. I explore some of these ideas in this article on Humanist Spirituality.

Update on Smoking a Turkey

It tasted gorgeous. (The salmon was even better!) I recommend a smoker to anyone. For a 5 lb breast it took about 5 hours. The way it works is to steam the meat with smoke flavor. It wasn’t dry. It wasn’t too salty, as some smoked meat is. It wasn’t even that smoky and had a subtle, fresh cooked flavor. I also added some wood chips directly to the heating elements, which added a bit more real smoke taste.

Wind Chimes

Wind Chimes at Sunrise
Thoughts on time
in tones of blues
or orange, bright
pearls of sun
drip down these tubes,
while air slips through
their purple scales,
random chance, dares,
wishing only for harmony.

Wind chimes remind us of the persistent nature of change, and teach us to make music with lessons learned from impermanence.

Click here to hear the chimes of a “Balinese” scale hanging near my house.

I have several sets of medium to large chimes hanging around my garden. Their scales are neither happy nor sad, but mysterious and questioning. I never tire of hearing them. Their music ranges from one tone lingering across many seconds to a joyous cacophony of 30 bells clanging in response to active wind.

Smoked Turkey

This week I borrowed a smoker from a friend. I’ve wanted one in the past, but resisted, wondering if I would use it. Now I can give it a try. I plan to smoke a turkey breast. I’m using hickory chips, purchased at the local store, nothing special. I’ll add some bourbon to the water and perhaps a lemon rind. Since there are two racks to smoke on in the model I borrowed, I thought I’d try smoking a piece of fresh salmon. I’m not a huge fan of fish, but I LOVE smoked fish. So here goes. I’ll let you know how they turned out.

For Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll be serving smoked ham, which I get fresh from a local meat farmer, “BluesCreek Farms Meats“. They raise most of their own meat, free range and healthy. They also do their own smoking. Now I know you’re asking “Why’d he smoking everything”? (I’ve been asking myself that since I was in High School, but I can’t remember why. Ha-ha.) It’s become my tradition to have a ham, since turkey is not my favorite. So smoked turkey sounded appetizing.

For veggies; I found a sale on potatoes, so TONS of garlic-chive mashed potatoes will be on the menu. Acorn squash is a favorite of mine. But after years of preparing it with maple syrup and butter, I’m going to season it with walnuts, Parmesan cheese, fresh rosemary and thyme. There will be NO STUFFING this year. My dinner, my menu. Tradition, Shmadition. I will, however, serve one traditional dish: green beans baked with mushroom sauce. The mushroom sauce will be from scratch, with cream, butter and sherry for richness.

The best part of the meal will be: a huge, luscious, gorgeous, mouthwatering, SALAD! It will include escarole (a touch bitter), romaine, crunchy fennel bulb (anise flavor), roasted beets, cucumber, carrots, avocado, canned (oh my god) mandarin oranges (always loved those as a kid), candied walnuts, and a garlic balsamic vinaigrette. (garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, French mustard, maple syrup, thyme, salt, pepper)

Oh, and dessert will include homemade key lime pie. Made with real key limes; I love squishing all those cute little green balls for the pie! And a friend will make his to die for apple pie.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.