Jennifer Lopez And Secular Spirituality

This is a continuation of an earlier post on secular spirituality. That first one was called “Secular Spirituality is, in the End, Spiritual Materialism.” The second “Secular Spirituality, Cont’d: Soft Porn As Spiritual Quest.”

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Jennifer Lopez performed at the Halftime Show of the Super Bowl on Sunday. Since then, much has been made of her fit, seductive, envy-inducing body. She is 50-years-old.

Another Hollywood actress, Haile Berry, now 53, is training for a movie in which she’s playing an MMA fighter trying to make a return to the ring. In one Instagram post, she shows off her washboard abs of which she is quite proud.

Or consider Elizabeth Hurley, at 54, who has her own bikini line, one for which she models. (When you search for Elizabeth Hurley, AI first suggests “Elizabeth Hurley son” and next “Elizabeth Hurley age.”)

What we’re witnessing, once again, is secular spirituality. Which goes something like this:

  1. There is the loss of the transcendent dimension on the “north side.”
  2. And there is also the feeling that the purely secular on the “south side” is insufficient.
  3. Therefore, in this weird interstitial space between the “north side” and the “south side” is springing up quasi-spiritual articulations of the secular: peak experiences, living indefinitely long, the beautiful body, and so on.

What is good about this development is that it reveals, starkly so, the inadequacy of a secular outlook: the “spiritualizing” of, say, the Carnivore Diet or of productivity reveals to us as much.

But then there comes the day of reckoning. Alas, secular spirituality will not fulfill our spiritual longings. The body shall age. Spiritual materialism shall get old. Peak experiences finally cease. Growth will reach its limit. The temporal shall remain temporal.

Someday even Jennifer Lopez will be irrelevant. This says little about her and a lot about modern culture.

What Remembrances of Kobe Miss: Aristotle

Many Americans are currently mourning the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, a basketball legend and 18-time NBA all-star. He was 41-years-old and less than four years into his retirement.

At this point, we know that the commercial helicopter was flown by an expert pilot, someone with whom Bryant had flown numerous times before, and we also know that the conditions were good when the helicopter took off but quickly worsened as the fog rolled in. Visibility was severely impaired, and in all likelihood the lack of visibility was the main cause of the helicopter crashing into the Calabasas hills.

The right word to use here is shocked: people are shocked. One man wrote to me to say: “I’ve genuinely experienced a variety of stages of grieving, with sometimes uncontrollable overpowering emotions such as sadness. I have been moved to tears more frequently in the past few days than I can even remember.” This sentiment, well-expressed, is also widely shared.

Missing, however, in the online remembrances of Kobe are Aristotle’s words from The Poetics. When a highborn person falls, in this tragic drama the viewer feels compassion and fear, even terror. Why compassion or pity (pathos)? Because someone great, one who shined so brightly, is gone and, in this case, gone so quickly. After all, we know that Kobe went to a Catholic church on Sunday (presumably the one he frequents): the Catholic priest spoke with him, if only briefly–and then he was airborne.

But why fear? Because it becomes palpably clear to us that such too is our fate. Scared shitless might be a modern rendering of this feeling. It may cause us to shiver; may give us nightmares; may simply make us petrified of the unknown.

Honestly, words are trite, however true they may be: You and I are going to die. Life is short. Life is a stage we occupy but for an instant, we merely players. Yea, too, and ubi sunt? And, pray, note this well: if a hero like Bryant can, notwithstanding his power, wealth, and larger-than-life status, vanish in an instant, what does this say about us who are neither gods nor heroes nor villains?

If we are not afraid of our own death or of those we love, we had better go back to the mirror and take a closer, harder look at ourselves. This time let’s be honest. For now is precisely the time to contemplate our own deaths as well as the masks we wear to hide this fear from us.

For we won’t be helped by secularism. We secularists lack an openness to many metaphysical possibilities–that there may be a soul; that I may never have been born in the first place; that this is but one life among many; and so on. Consider these and others now yet not with dried-out reason but with the unified reasoning of the heart.

Then also we lack the rites and rituals surrounding death and dying. Because of this, people just seem to vanish while Total Work soldiers on. Hence, we write or read something on Twitter or Instagram in an attempt, not without sincerity, to throw dirt on the departed and to wail and moan. But they don’t signify, and we, in our loss, are left alone and unsatisfied.

We need to contemplate our own deaths, we cannot do with the sacred, and we need rites and rituals that can bear us up in liminal space. Period.