EIGHTEEN INCHES. That was it. Not two feet, or maybe two rows of two feet. Just eighteen inches dedicated to books on religion and spirituality at a local independent bookstore. I get it, and I don’t blame them, as this is a shop in a smallish town. It was a nice little shop, too, with an open feeling and a seeming abundance of intriguing, even colorful, choices insa such a tidy space.
What seemed noticeable to me, however, was how there was just the eighteen inches of books about spirituality. And the offerings were dominated by the predictable, tired, albeit bestselling books from a motivational preacher (or is it speaker?), the mid-twentieth century English popular theologian who I think himself would prefer to go into oblivion at this point, and the instant gratification prayer book that talks to Jesus for you.
Don’t our spiritual lives mean more than eighteen inches of bland and tired books? Can’t we do better?
Oh, we certainly can. Those books are out there, and you’ll have to expand your field of vision to more than just eighteen inches.
But let me prove my point—that life can be more meaningful, grittier, less predictable and boring, and more empowering for that matter—in the kinds of things to which we direct our eyes and ears.
So here are four ways life doesn’t have to be bland. These aren’t all the ways. I didn’t promise that. Just four things limited to what we can consume, which is really only a part of life—not all of life itself. But it’s a part.
- Music. Not too long ago, if you wanted to listen to music, you had either to turn on the radio or play a record, cassette tape, or compact disc. But now there’s streaming, unleashing more music than you could ever possibly choose from when you were limited to the choices of radio program directors or record companies executives. I won’t even list some examples. Just get on to your favorite streaming service and explore.
- Television. Today, there’s no such thing as a blockbuster broadcast network sitcom, like M*A*S*H* or Seinfeld. Its all divided up between so many networks, mostly streaming. You know what I mean if you’ve every really pondered Bruce Springsteen’s song “57 Channels (and Nothin’ On)”. But if you’re savvy, and do a little search research, you CAN find something YOU will enjoy. Maybe even an old episode of the New Zoo Review.
- News. Come on! As per above, who listens to radio as much as they used to? Be honest. Instead, plug that smartphone into your car system or get that Bluetooth speaker connected and start listening. Do a search on Apple or Spotify podcasts. You can find a podcast about just about ANYTHING. Just stay away from conspiracy theories, please.
- Books. Now the options for individuating and specializing are infinite. You could go for the bestseller lists on Amazon (still bland—as Amazon needs help curating), but try Goodreads to find “lists” in the areas you like. Maybe search “books about spirituality that don’t suck.” Well, that doesn’t yield a lot—haha—but hopefully you get the idea. What will work is this: “books on deconstructing faith.” Experiment. Look for random things. There is SO MUCH out there.
You can do it. Go find experiences that feel real, authentic, particular, meaty, and meaningful. Not something packaged or highly produced. I think we’re all a little tired of that.
David Morris, Publisher