I recently applied for the Think, Write, Publish: Science and Religion writing Fellowship out of Arizona State University. The program is looking for proposals for creative nonfiction narratives, including stories from “everyday people seeking to explore or reconcile their own spiritual and scientific beliefs.” That is me. Working on the application, I realized that here, on this website, I have side-stepped my own spirituality. I’ve put forth a public face more focused on ecology, humanities, and the relationship between nature and culture. The result is more academic than spiritual, when in reality, my worldview is quite spiritual. Why have I done this?
Maybe it’s because at one point I worked as an ecologist in an environment that had no room for spirituality. I still am an ecologist, though it is not my career (I call myself a naturalist because that term has more fluid boundaries than ecologist). So, although I am and always have been deeply spiritual, I tend to cloak that most of the time, for fear that my beliefs and experiences will be disparaged in a secular world that isn’t always open to other ways of knowing.
I see changes in the scientific realm, openings that allow for ideas with roots beyond science, be that indigenous traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), or current explorations of the compatibility between Buddhism and Science. But, still, I stepped away from science. And I never held to one faith. I think the reason for those choices is the same: the institutions I encountered in both academic sciences and formal Religion were exclusive and closed, not open to merged ways of thinking. I believe that is a cultural construction – that science and spirituality are not only compatible, but when joined together, they foster a much richer and more meaningful way of life. So here I sit, freelancing, where I can foster that life in a beautiful way.
If I had to put a label on my spirituality, it would be Pantheism as defined by S.A. Russell in Standing in the Light: “Pantheism is the belief that the universe, with all its existing laws and properties, is an interconnected whole that we can rightly consider sacred” – which allows for both scientific and spiritual ways of thinking. So I am always living with a scientific curiousity and a sense of the sacred, intimately bound together, finding beauty in both the physical and spiritual realms in my surrounds.