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  • Writer's pictureRobert Adams

Many Truths

Updated: Feb 3

MY LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE offered diverse courses that both intrigued and challenged me. Classes in Philosophy and English introduced me to Transcendentalism which came into prominence for three decades in the mid-1800s. Its preeminent spokespersons were writers and philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Many others championed the cause, especially the elite class of New England intellectuals.

Transcendentalists espoused the essential values of individualism, idealism, and the divinity of nature as contrasted to the strict dogma of the country’s many religions. It was a movement that was embraced by our rebellious Yankee forefathers believing that man’s spirituality is served by multiple truths not just God’s word so defining of Christianity. I’ve enjoyed going back to examine these principles that challenged our nation’s strict religious interpretations. I decided to read passages from Emerson’s Nature, and I offer this excerpt from his writings which highlights a key Transcendental concept about the importance of nature in our lives:

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.

Emerson's words hit home to me, especially after my month of cataract surgeries where I’m dealing with a new visual acuity of my universe. Wondering if it will last and if I will adjust to my new altered state of perception.

I also went back to one of my essays that examined my life during a rebooting fifteen years ago where I question my definition of spirituality which suggests that Transcendentalism had rubbed off on me.

I was fascinated by the enlightenment that followed the losses that consumed everything around me in 2009 and 2010. My wife, my business, my farm, and my home all disappeared in a twelve-month sweep. I did retain my golf clubs and a rather large house cat - so all was not lost. It was clear even to me that I was in the middle of a crisis.

I did reach out for spiritual guidance and tried attending a local church for help. The people were nice and most of the words were reassuring but it just was not the right spot for me. Sitting in the church pew produced an odd feeling -- I’m not sure why. It seemed to smack of dogma that I couldn’t get around or through. Trusting one’s gut is important especially as you age.

I was a Thoreau-like person. I recall studying the author in a college class, and like him, I found solace in our woods, meadows, and lakes not in the wooden pews of some stuffy church. Several outdoor ruminations can provide a solid footing in finding harmony and balance in one’s life. I am most thankful for that insight.

Now, I have a single creator and further, I am learning from the worldly teachings of Buddha. That seems to be my spiritual base -- a combo using today’s popular parlance. Christianity has moved to the back burner. My peace and enlightenment are indeed the desired state of being because I do not like crowds or vast parking lots. Hence, I now relax and simply take a few steps outdoors and find Nirvana -- happy and peaceful in my own space. How nice.

If there is still some confusion in my spirituality, I have a backup plan. As a teenager, I was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. If on judgment day that requirement becomes my admission ticket, I already punched it.

I also suspect that even my refresher course on Transcendentalism would only allow me at best a grade of C should I be subject to such a quiz. I'm banking on the belief that there are many truths to be factored into one's life.

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