We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
A lot of people see this famous quote as a reminder of our inherent spirituality. And yes, I agree — we are innately spiritual. It’s who we are.
(Or, at least, half of who we are.)
But I also think that the last part of the sentence is just as important (if not more so): we’re having a human experience.
That means that we laugh, we cry, we sing, we dance, we make mistakes, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we eat, we drink, we play games, we make more mistakes, we laugh some more,…in short, we LIVE!
It also means that we FEEL: we feel joy, we feel pain, we feel at peace, we feel worried, we feel bored, we feel excited, we feel nervous, we feel confident, we feel cool, we feel insecure, we feel good, we feel bad, we feel grief, we feel gratitude,…and sometimes we feel a bunch of these at the same time!
Because we’re human. Because we’re having human experiences. Because that’s what we do on Earth.
Imagine for a moment that there’s a purely spiritual plane — a place where our souls originate and to which they return after our time on Earth. And, in this place, imagine that one soul says to another soul:
“I want to go to Earth — to have a human experience. I want to find out what it’s like to feel joy and pain, to fall in love and to have my heart broken, to listen to The Beatles and go to a Shakespeare play and go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and play badminton and get a speeding ticket. I want to swim in the ocean and climb a mountain and read a book and eat an avocado and make a friend and lose a friend and make another friend. I want to be human.”
And so that soul goes to Earth, lives a long life, and then returns to the purely spiritual realm. And the second soul asks, “So, what did you do on Earth? ” And the first one says, “I spent most of my time trying to achieve a state of pure spirituality.” And the second soul says, “WHY on Earth [pun intended] would you do that?! You have all of eternity to be in a state of pure spirituality, but you had less than a century to be human! Why didn’t you experience being human while you had the chance?! After all, that was the whole point of going to Earth in the first place, right? If you’d only wanted a spiritual experience, you could’ve just stayed here!”
Of course, it’s not either/or. We ARE spiritual, and we’re also human. To forget either half is to deny half of ourselves. To embrace BOTH sides is to become whole.
So if you’re ever feeling particularly human — for instance, worrying, grieving, or feeling any sort of emotional pain or distress, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It doesn’t mean that you’re not sufficiently evolved — that if you could only see things from a higher perspective, you would never feel pain or grief. It means that you’re a living, breathing human, having a human experience. And that’s what we humans are here on Earth to experience.
(Or, at least, half of what we’re here to experience.)
Personally, I’m very wary of people who claim to have transcended human experiences such as pain or grief (or desire or confusion or any of the million other things we mortals experience on a daily basis). Yes, maybe they’re highly evolved beings. Or maybe they’re simply denying their humanity. Or maybe they’re not in touch with their true feelings. Or maybe they’re pushing away human experience because, on some level, they think that it’s not spiritual. Or maybe they see a divide (to my mind, a false divide) between human and spiritual experiences.
But if we truly are spiritual beings, then how can anything we experience not be spiritual? And if we truly are human beings, then how can anything we experience not be human?
So, what if we drop the sense of hierarchy — thinking that spiritual experiences are “better” or “more evolved” than human experiences (or maybe even drop the sense that they’re different at all)? What if we fully embrace the spiritual aspects of our lives and also fully embrace the human aspects of our lives?
Let’s be the spiritual beings we truly are, and let’s have the human experience that we’re here to have!
And let’s celebrate it all.
(Photo by Frugo)