Relationships as the Spiritual Web of our Lives
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Relationships are the spiritual web of our lives. The crucial strands of family, intimate relationships, marriage, friends, community, nature, and place and the wider world.
The quality of our spiritual lives is measured by these essential bonds. Indeed, our relationship with God is reflected and expressed in these and other relationships.
They are the essential meaning and miracle in our days. They are the arena in which we exercise our values and express our visions.
Relationships enrich our lives with intimacy, purpose, healing, and wholeness. They also draw out our fear, anger, envy, hatred, pain, greed, and shame. Through inner work, we can befriend the shadow, face death, and renew our spirits.
As we explore our relationships and the feelings that come with them, we find that they are hitched to everything else in the world. We are parts of the whole and obligated to love both the familiar and the mysterious, often fearsome “other.”
Although terrible and divisive forces may eat away at our relationships, the spiritual web can never be destroyed. The Spirit sustains us as we patch and reweave the web again and again.
Finally, relationships are our training ground. “Being human is an accomplishment like playing an instrument.” Michael Ignatieff once observed. “It takes practice.” Through our connections with the whole and the holy, we learn how to be fully human.
The Art of Making Connections
Separateness is an illusion. That's what we learn through the spiritual practice of connections. Everything is interrelated — in time, space, and our very being. Both religion and science reveal this truth — Hinduism's image of Indra's net, Buddhism's understanding of interbeing, the experiences of the mystics, the teachings of ecology and physics, even the Internet. One definition of spirituality is "the art of making connections." There are certain givens: The one is made up of many. One thing always leads to another. Everything is related to everything else. You practice connections, then, by consciously tracing the links connecting you with other beings. Any point is a good starting place — your family line, your work, your back yard. Watch for the moments when the separations disappear. And don't be shy about naming mystical experiences as such when you experience them.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat Spirituality and Practice
Relationships as Felt Connections
an ontological addendum
What can it mean to say that relationships are the building blocks of the universe?
Normally we think of a building block as existing, with its own shape and identity and then entering into relationship with other things. From a process perspective the obverse is true. The true building blocks of the universe are momentary happenings: moments of experience or energy-events. They come into existence through their relationships with other things. The solid things of the world -- blocks of concrete, for example -- are aggregate expressions of these momentary happenings, these energy-events, these moments of experience.
The relationships are internal to the moments of experience, not external; and the relationships are feelings. They are subjective acts of taking into account other things, often in a bodily way and always in a psychological way, from a specific region in time and space. Whitehead's word for feeling is prehension. Relationships, then, are prehensions.
The most intimate example of this is our own human experience. We ourselves emerge out of our feeling of other people, earth and sky, plants and animals, the ideas in our minds, the hopes in our hearts. These felt relations may be happy or sad, pleasurable or painful, positive or negative, energetic or draining, conscious or unconscious' in any case they are felt relations and we would not exist without them. And they, along with we ourselves, are changing moment to moment. Our feelings are in process and we are, too.
Think of the Christian idea that God is a holy trinity: three persons in one, existing in relation to one another. Or the Buddhist idea that the beings of the world are inter-beings because they depend on one another for their very existence. Process thinkers say something similar. They say that every entity is trinitarian; that every being is an act of inter-being or inter-becoming. The Brussats have it right, Relationships are the web of our lives.