Is Mine a Spiritual Message?

We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.

~ Charles Bukowski


I’m frequently accused of, or credited with, presenting a spiritual message. The statements typically emanate from people I’m inclined to describe as spiritually religious. I used to argue with them. I no longer argue, and my message hasn’t changed. I have.

I’m a rationalist. I’ve no place in my life for paranormal or supernatural phenomena. I generally describe myself as either an indifferent agnostic or a militant anti-theist. My perspective on rationalism has not wavered in the 16 years since I’ve concluded abrupt climate change will lead to near-term human extinction. And yet, I’ve changed.

I’m more compassionate than I was 16 years ago. I’m kinder, too, and more tolerant. And these are not the attributes to which I refer when I mention I’ve changed. Rather, a definition and etymology come into play.

Spiritual (initial definition): of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit : INCORPOREAL spiritual needs

Digging deeper, into the etymology, we find that spirit is derived from the Latin root spiritus, literally, breath, from spirare to blow, breathe

Am I spiritual? I don’t believe in ensoulment, an idea for which there is no evidence. I don’t believe in god(s). In fact, I used to tell my students pursuing one of the an Abrahamic religions that I believed in one fewer god than they did. I’d occasionally mention the 33 trillion Hindu gods, much to the surprise of my students.

I used to rabidly deny my religious spirituality. I still do.

Am I spiritual? I believe breathing is important. I believe how we breathe affects our thoughts. I believe the movement of air — that is, the wind — impacts everything from the structure and function of ecosystems to our daily emotions. Without wind of a certain direction and speed, our food supply declines profoundly and perhaps even vanishes.

I’m a fan of food. Does that make me spiritual?

Was Bukowski’s message a spiritual one? I suspect your answer to that question is the same as your response to the title of this essay.