Boomers and Self-Seeking

A very light sprinkling of rain did not stop our Boomer group from enjoying a walk through beautiful Weldon Park in Arva this morning! And thanks to our wonderful host and those who brought goodies, we also enjoyed a delicious repast afterwards as we discussed the fourth chapter of Miller’s book: “Self-Seeking”.

The themes today engendered some lively and wonderful conversations. Some of us could really relate to the touchy-feely movement of the sixties and seventies, having experienced it first-hand in church youth groups and other organisations. Many of us could also relate to the experience of losing ourselves in false gods like consumerism or feeling as though we are stuck down some rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. One woman, a first wave Boomer, talked about the limited options that were available to her when she was young and how she could relate to the theme of Snow White waiting for her prince to appear. Another woman saw Dorothy as a role model who empowered her to seek and find her calling and identity in life. Some talked about major super heroes that had served as models for them, or James Bond, or Frogo in The Lord of the Rings. Still others connected to the theme of Dorothy’s longing for “home sweet home.” And of course there were some who, because of geography or their family of origin, did not have any of the experiences Miller talks about in this chapter.

We agreed that self-seeking is not always a bad thing, and that if we are truly to love others, then we must first love ourselves. Recalling the teachings of feminist theologian Judith Plaskow, we were reminded that we cannot live sacrificially as Christ calls us to do if we don’t have a fully developed self to sacrifice! Harvey Cox’s interpretation of the story of Adam and Even and the serpent in the Garden of Eden was also briefly discussed. In his book On Leaving It to the Snake, Cox said that the real sin of Adam and Eve was that they failed to choose for themselves – they just left it to the snake to decide their destiny for them. Their real sin therefore was not hubris or pride but rather a failure to make their own decisions. Their failure to act meant that they did not take responsibility for their lives; they just let life happen to them. This was their real sin.

The theme of escapism was discussed at length. It was also noted that, with greater leisure time available because of modern technology, cars and modern household appliances, we also have much more time to become bored – unlike our grandparents who often worked from dawn till dusk and then fell exhausted into their beds at night.

The feeling was that Boomers have continually buried themselves in their work or various kinds of busyness in order to avoid having to ask the really big question in life: what am I here for? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? As one famous rabbi once said, there has to be “more to life than bread and cars and air-conditioned rooms.” Perhaps our boredom and restlessness is due to the fact that, in this life, we are never truly home but that we long for “that home that is not built with hands but which is eternal in the heavens.”  Or as Saint Augustine once wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

         An article by Marianne Mellinger on spiritual practices of first-wave Canadian Boomer women, led to an interesting discussion on what it means to be a “dweller” or a “seeker” and the differences between the two. In this article Mellinger refers to the writing by religious sociologist Robert Wuthnow, After Heaven:  Spirituality in America since the 1950’s, in which Wuthnow differentiates between a spirituality of ‘dwelling’ and a spirituality of ‘seeking’.  As Mellinger writes, “A spirituality of dwelling, according to Wuthnow, emphasizes habitation—to inhabit sacred space is to know its territory.  Dwelling is more typically connected to organized religion—conformity to particular tenets of faith.  Dwelling offers security, stability, community, connection. A spirituality of seeking, on the other hand, finds many sources of inspiration—counselling centres, books, spiritual guides.  Seeking offers choice, competing glimpses of the sacred, practical wisdom.  Seeking is open to novelty and values one’s own experience.  Wuthnow suggests that a spirituality of dwelling was predominant in North America prior to 1960 and that since 1960 a spirituality of seeking has predominated.”[1]

One individual observed that the Bible speaks of both “dwellers” and “seekers” and honours both paths. Perhaps, then, we need to become “dwelleekers” or “dwellingseekers” – who draw on and carry the strengths of both “dwellers” (community) and “seekers” (individual searchers and spiritual adventurers).

Thanks to everyone for a highly engaging and interesting discussion!

 

 

 

[1] Marianne Mellinger, D. Min., “Spiritual expression and practices of Canadian women born between 1946-1955”

 

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