Dust on the lampshade

Jeffrey Kane: The first question I’d like to ask you is, As you walk down the street, or as you eat your meal, or as you go to bed at night, do you see a spiritual dimension which pervades everyday existence?

Huston Smith: If I answer honestly and personally (it’s a personal question), the answer is some days I do, and some days I don’t. But let me say immediately that on the days that I don’t, I feel unwell, you might say. It is as if I have the spiritual flu—something like that. When you have the flu you feel rotten, and when you have the spiritual flu the world seems drained of meaning and purpose—humdrum and prosaic. But I’ve lived long enough to be able to say when those days roll ’round: okay, this is the yin and yang of life—ups and downs. This is one of those dark days of the ego. Most of the time, though, meaning and purpose are discernible, often to lyrical heights. Those moments are privileged; they are gifts. Even when my happiness isn’t at a rolling boil, I tend to know that there is a spiritual dimension to all things.


I find that this exchange between Jeffrey Kane and the wise and wonderful Huston Smith is very beautiful, but it also fills me with sadness.

It makes me sad because I remember feeling that everyday life was infused with a spiritual dimension every day. But now I find that whole weeks go by where I don’t even think of it. It seems to me that the busy routine that mostly centres around work is the cause of this spiritual dimness.

When I was in university, I lived meaningfully every day, because I was always reading amazing books, conversing with people, volunteering, etc. I had no idea that this way of living would not be the norm once I finished school.

We tried living in an inexpensive house outside of town, hoping that it would be possible to work less and have more freedom. It turned out that the commute ate up most of the extra time and a lot of cash too – it’s expensive to travel such a long way every day.

Now, back in town, there are certainly many moments of joy – the sweet and wonderful things that Liam says and does, bike rides at Stoney Swamp, reading Huston Smith, writing, the occasional inspiring conversation – the house concerts we participated in, Sean’s music.

Just the same I am beginning to understand quite well those stories of people who quit their run of the mill jobs and take off into the wild blue yonder, whatever form that may take.

I wonder if you also see this coating of dust on the lampshade that turns the light into an almost-memory? We need to keep creating spaces that are alive with our humanity; open the window and let in the wind; blow the dust away.

Focal spaces

Originator No. 2, Carl Beam
Originator No. 2, Carl Beam

I like to write because it helps me to connect with focal spaces where I feel most alive and closest to God, in whatever form God takes. Writing about Aboriginal art deepens this experience, because I am writing about art, which is usually the product of connections with God and living things.

Writing about Aboriginal people and their art is a small way to heal the world; picking up the shards of broken things and putting them back together; fixing the splintered, warped perspective of mainstream interpretations of Native art. And how could it be otherwise, if a person writes about NDN art, but sees it from across the chasm of ignorance that separates that writer from their subject?

Focal spaces may envelope us in many times and places. Over food you made and shared, when riding your bike early in the morning before the city sounds have taken over; walking, dancing or standing in place, on a path where people have gone before over hundreds of years, and knowing it deep in your bones. Writing opens these spaces within me, and perhaps in you.