Rabbi Rami explores what the next 25 years have in store for Spirituality & Health and American spirituality as a whole.
Thirty-plus years ago as I prepared for ordination, a rabbi-mentor gave me this piece of advice: Don’t give advice. He offered this without any sense of irony, which, I suspect, is one of the fundamental problems of religion in general and clergy in particular: a lack of irony, not to mention humility.
Clearly, I didn’t take his advice since I’ve been the spiritual advice columnist for Spirituality+Health Magazine for almost twenty years. I took the job without credentials unless you consider being Jewish—something I share with Esther Pauline Friedman (Ann Landers) and her twin sister Pauline Esther Friedman (Abigail Van Buren/Dear Abby)—credential enough.
I was thinking about my lack of credentials as I prepared to interview Steven Kiesling, editor-in-chief of Spirituality+Health Magazine for the Spirituality+Health podcast. It dawned on me that he might ask me why I imagine I’m the person to give advice to tens of thousands of readers in each issue. Thankfully I kept him too busy answering my own questions to allow him time to ask this one.
Our interview covered two subjects: an examination of Steve’s essay “The Source of the Declaration of Independence,” which deals with the impact of Native American values on Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of inalienable rights, and his vision of the future of Spirituality+Health.
Steve has been involved with American spirituality and health for decades, and I most wanted to ask him this: What’s next? What’s next for American spirituality and what’s next for a magazine that seeks to give it both voice and vision? You will have to listen to the podcast to hear his answer, but I want to share mine with you here.
What’s next for American spirituality? At Spirituality+Health Magazine, we define spirituality as Total Aliveness, a definition that closely parallels the theology of the 18th century Hasidic Rebbe Menachem Nachum Twersky who spoke of God as infinite Aliveness or Chiut (from the Hebrew Chai/life). As I understand it, spirituality as Total Aliveness is the practice of awakening to infinite Aliveness in, with, and as each finite life. I suspect that American spirituality will move toward a direct encounter with Aliveness—beyond the tribalism of religion and ideology—that calls us to engage with each life to enhance the wellbeing of all life.
What’s next for Spirituality+Health Magazine? Given our definition of spirituality as Total Aliveness, our mission is to explore the rituals, practices, beliefs, and ideas that enhance our capacity to embody total aliveness and realize infinite Aliveness.
As a magazine, we can do this by providing American spirituality with stories of people and plants and animals awakening to place and purpose. Stories of mother trees and grandmother wisdom. Stories of grieving elephants and grieving people finding common ground in their shared suffering. Healing stories of compassion and justice, contemplative peace, and prophetic anger. Through story the emerging spirituality finds its voice, and through story the emerging spirituality finds its vision. Spirituality+Health is a wonderful platform for telling these stories through words and through art. But in the end, they cannot remain on the page—whether paper or screen.
Total Aliveness needs living interaction. Though I cannot predict how this will happen, my hope is that there will come a time when we will invite you to gather together in real-time in a real place to tell our stories and share our visions and celebrate the only thing that will save our species from itself: Total Aliveness to the infinite Aliveness that is all.
Listen to the podcast episode that inspired this essay here.