A look at faith and our higher selves
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
World-renowned drag queen RuPaul recently shared with Oprah important insights about a, “new belief system that transcends the 20th century”. Spirituality, broadly defined, is about leaving personal comfort zones. There is no growth, according to him, without moving outside one’s “own limited perception” of ourselves.
It’s not a new belief system, but rather an ancient one presented in a creative, different way to individuals struggling with the world as it exists while trying to find a place in it. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is reaching folks on a soulful level where contestants are challenged “to go beyond their own limited perception of themselves.”
There’s some truth to the cliché, “We’re our own worst enemy.” It’s difficult to see how often we can’t get out of our own way to realize our full potential.
Ultimately, faith and religion is about challenging ourselves to let go of self-made obstacles that limit our ability to grow. It requires an open mind and often going into uncharted territory that may cause us a healthy kind of fear and anxiety.
It’s critical to expose one’s self to many different opportunities to grow. Personally, I’ve never fully understood the Dali Lama or Deepak Chopra. Yet, they have extraordinary wisdom to offer. What may not resonate with me clearly does for others.
I love world religions. All of them have some lesson to teach me. They also provide perspective about life and my place in the world as it is and my duty to help change it for the better.
Observing others on their personal spiritual journey, articulated by RuPaul as one example, are also learning opportunities.
My best friend and his husband always require one of their two children to say grace before dinner every night. This reflects humility, gratefulness, cohesiveness as a family, and continuity and stability in good times and bad. They also belong to two different churches since both husbands approach Christianity a little differently. Hence, the children will be the beneficiary of both traditions.
Another good friend is also a devout Christian and I had the honor to be the officiant at the wedding of him and his husband. My friend rarely misses a Sunday Mass and is an enthusiastic member of his church choir. He lives his faith, in part, through his calling as a social worker. His lifelong embrace of the Episcopal Church keeps him humble, grounded, and believing in a universal love where all are treated with dignity and respect by God.
Although not Episcopalian, I often find myself at an Episcopal church, though I’m always ready to experience something spiritual outside my routine. There are Sikh and Buddhist temples in my area that I have yet to experience. The to-do list just gets longer.
Music also can be uplifting and transcendental. By the time this column appears, I’ll have attended “Parsifal” at The Metropolitan Opera. It’s Richard Wagner’s last opera and is an interpretation of the Holy Grail story. The themes are about redemption through compassion and spirituality compromised and reborn. Its five and half hours (yes, there are intermissions), but the music quiets me and reaches deep within unlocking emotions.
February 14 began the season of Lent which ends with the most important day in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday on April 1. Lent is a time to reflect, hopefully with grace to grow. It’s about dying to self and being reborn into a better reflection of the holy and divine that created us.
RuPaul observes of the drag contestants, “The real challenge is for them to be willing to die and become reborn.” Death to obstacles, especially of our own making, is a valuable lesson in the ongoing effort of self-improvement in better realizing our potential as lovers, friends, professionals, and the holy spiritual beings we were intended to be.
*Paul is a corporate chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, New York. He’s also author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”