Sources of Nourishment
I am always struck by how the mind and spirit need nourishment much like the body does.
Like the body, the mind and spirit can survive on substandard nourishment, if they have to. As we have Twinkies and McDonald’s, so we also have Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives of Orange County. And in case you’re up for a double-dose of awful, you can choose to watch Jersey Shore while eating Twinkies. But for a long, long time I neglected the conscientious nourishment of mind and spirit. Interestingly but not surprisingly, if a diet consists of substandard foods for a long enough period of time, that diet begins to feel entirely normal and commonplace. A fish, after all, would not say that he is wet.
So it is with things spiritual and intellectual; if my diet in such things has been a substandard diet for long enough, it will start to take on a quotidian feel. It seems that life is arranged in such a way, however, that there will be shocks to the system; that is, something will brush up against us sooner or later that invites us to wake up, that gives us a new scent of something wonderful and alluring, and we are invited to take a step in that direction. For myriad reasons, we constantly turn down the invitations. I turned down numerous invitations over several years, until the pins inside the lock were finally aligned and I was in the right place spiritually and intellectually to move forward.
So what constitutes my spiritual and intellectual nourishment these days? The past two years have represented a decisive break with the past, and my nourishment has consisted primarily of the following:
- The Canon of Scripture: Although it’s trendy (religiously), as well as expected, to cite scripture as one’s primary nourishment, this mention of scripture is more than a mere platitude. Scripture seems to represent a class of words with particular catalytic force in the ongoing search for personal revelation. As Bruce McConkie once said, “I sometimes think that one of the best-kept secrets of the kingdom is that the scriptures open the door to the receipt of revelation.” Scripture seems to accomplish this better than any other class of words. And the canon I refer to is, of course, the LDS one: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
- Good Books: I’ve managed to finally apply some semblance of organization to what I read. I cycle through 4 different genres, reading one from each in turn: 1) LDS books – devotional or scholarly, having to do particularly with ‘Mormon Studies’, 2) Science or history books, 3) Religious and philosophical books – unrelated to Mormonism, and 4) Great literature, the “classics,” and other works of fiction that qualify as artistically valuable.
- Articles and Blogs: These are found in a number of ways, often stumbled upon, and they can be very powerful, like, for instance, the personal essays of Eugene England. I’ve finally begun keeping and storing the best articles I find, in order to reference them again later as needed.
- Podcasts: I spend about an hour a day in the car commuting to and from work, so if I can’t read, I’ll listen to something. Podcast choices over the past year have been many and varied: 1) ‘Mormon Stories’ (now called ‘A Thoughtful Faith’), 2) FairLDS.org podcast, 3) ‘Scientific American’, 4) ‘Islam from Inside’, 5) ‘Stand to Reason’ (Evangelical Christian radio show), 6) TED Talks, and others.
- Good Music: It’s amazing how nourishing good music can be, music that creates an atmosphere of meaningful energy. Some of my favorites: 1) Jack’s Mannequin, 2) Mumford & Sons, 3) Dave Matthews Band, 4) Coldplay, 5) Patty Griffin, 6) Counting Crows, 7) Death Cab for Cutie, 8) Jack Johnson.
- Church Activity: I remain convinced that there is a quality of nourishment that comes by actively participating in a community of faith (both in the rituals and in the sociality) that can be gained in no other way.
- Service and Giving: This one should probably go first, not last. I really haven’t become as others-focused as I feel invited by the Spirit to be, but I can say that humble service and sacrifice seem to energize the whole system; they nourish in perhaps the most noble and worthwhile way. But the marvelous thing about it is that service is most satisfying when the thought of reward is most absent. N.T. Wright describes the life of a Christian disciple as a life of “reflected glory,” which captures so well in so few words what we’re about.