Spiritual beliefs: A conversation worth having


Spirituality is a loosely-defined concept that takes various forms-from unaffiliated personal practice to strict adherence to a religious doctrine. Regardless of what spirituality means to each of us, the DePauw community would benefit from embracing spiritual conversations.
Although it might seem like an intangible, mystical concept, spirituality manifests itself very evidently on our campus and in the world at large through everything from holidays and traditions to everyday choices and habits. Talking about these beliefs, then, seems not only relevant to a student body that brims with a variety of spiritual beliefs but strikingly logical.
At our liberal arts university, we value the cultivation of educated minds that can see beyond their own viewpoints and ethnocentric tendencies. Our campus prizes tolerance, equality and acceptance for each unique worldview. It only makes sense, then, that we would be not only willing but wholeheartedly eager to engage in conversations about spirituality.
Nearly every culture throughout history has based itself on some spiritual ideology that answers life's biggest existential questions about how we got here, why we are here and what happens to us when we die. Obviously, since we were not around to witness the beginning of the universe, we find other ways to explain life. We usually choose one of two options: ignore the big questions or find answers to them by sorting through various belief systems until we find one that makes sense. I encourage the latter option.
Specifically, as a Christian on this campus, I encourage talking openly about spiritual matters and religious beliefs because I think it sharpens our own ideas when we encounter different opinions. Existential issues, moral conundrums, and religious identities frequently seem too controversial, too elusive, too frustrating-maybe even too unimportant-for everyday conversation. But I think that spirituality has played such a vital role in the construction of nearly all modern societies that we have no choice but to tackle these often loaded subjects.
When we get tripped up by the enormity of spiritual conversations or let the social stigma keep us quiet, we cause education to come to a violent halt. We miss out on the chance to understand more about our world when we close ourselves off to spiritual matters. Just as importantly, because many of the students on our campus have spiritual practices or ideas, we miss the opportunity to learn about each other, too, when we avoid talking about spirituality. I think we could have a more tolerant, supportive and cohesive campus climate if we took time to listen to one another's ideas about higher beings, prayer, religion and the purpose of human existence.
Because these topics are often very personal and sensitive, however, we should bring our highest respect and attentiveness into our spiritual conversations. Without a genuine concern for the risk that it takes to open up about such deeply sacred topics as spirituality, we will never experience the radical growth and learning that can come from talking about spiritual matters.
We won't always come away from a spiritual conversation with a changed opinion, but we should make it our goal to leave with a deeper knowledge of the world in which we live and a heightened respect for others' beliefs. We owe it to ourselves to be open to these dialogues because they are an integral part of a well-rounded education. Learning about others' ideas and spiritual beliefs prepares us to enter a diverse world as people who can appreciate difference and promote equitable lifestyles for all sectors of our societies.

- Perkins is a senior from Newcastle, Ind. majoring in English Literature.