“I love deadlines,” said the late author and humorist Douglas Adams, “I love the wooshing sound they make as they go by.”
As I sit here staring at a blank screen with a blank brain, wondering what I might say for our Faith Forum, I think about where I might find some inspiration so I can meet the deadline and say something that might actually be worth reading. So I started thinking about inspiration.
We often think of inspiration coming from within, from some reservoir of creativity just waiting to be tapped. We await a ‘Eureka’ moment where things, almost miraculously, jump out from that place deep within wherein our inspiration comes. It seems, however, and neuroscience seems to agree (at least according to a TED talk I listened to a while ago), that inspiration is much more about bringing together thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge, from the world around and making connections which may, after a lot of percolation through the subconscious, result in a moment of new awareness or understanding.
The word ‘inspiration’ itself is a clue: to inspire is to take something in. It’s a word which is based on the idea of taking in the spirit, life, breath, air – for in the ancient languages and traditions of Greek and Hebrew thinking the concept of ‘spirit’ is mixed up with all of those things. So to conspire is to breathe together or share the same spirit, to expire is to lose life or lose one’s spirit.
I realise my inspiration comes from many places, walks along the Dallas Road or hikes on this beautiful Island, time spent with my children and my friends, the ridiculously huge number of books I read, the TED talks I listen to in the car alongside the stories of Stuart McLean and Garrison Keiller, and Tim and Sid’s podcast, my faith community, my colleagues, the Bible, music, and God; the Divine Spirit. I choose, all of the time, to take these in. Some of my influences are helpful, some less so; the news I read and hear can make me feel anxious, such as the activity of hate-speech activists in the US and our own nation, or confirm my bias unquestioningly. Some of the words of the songs I love can create an overly-romanticised view of the world, or encourage me to treat others like objects, or encourage me to get a dog and a truck and drink lots of whiskey (yes, I do like Country music). Some of the TV and movies I watch, well, they’re just rubbish, really.
There’s a phrase from the early days of computer programming: “Garbage in equals garbage out.”
It’s important to consider what is ‘inspiring’ us, what we allow to influence us; whether it be the hate speech of racists, or the love and service of our fellow human beings from different religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions. For me, my greatest inspiration comes from Jesus and his teachings, which though often misunderstood and misrepresented are, teachings of self-giving love, healing, and human value; challenge to act for justice, and to seek a path which causes me to grow in faith, hope, and love. I hope through that kind of inspiration I am being transformed into a better, more integrated, more complete person.
It is a good thing to think on those things, people, events, and places which inspire us, and cause us to breathe deep of the breath, the spirit, of meaning and hope: so that each one of us may find the inspiration we need to be the people we need to be.
Alastair McCollum is Rector of St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Victoria. He has a passion for the Gospel, motorbikes and bike culture, worship, philosophy, theology, guitars, single malt whisky, real ale, cinema and all things French. You can find Alastair at the church website: www.stjohnthedivine.bc.caand on his blog: fracme.blogspot.ca
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, Sept. 26 2017.