Religion is a circle –
Into which many must fit –
Spirituality is a circle –
With you at the centre of it
199? – 10.01.15
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion.
Notes to this poem…
I’ve had this metaphorical thought since the 1990s when I was in university for my first degree. I just never got it articulated into a nice enough poem to consider it finished until today when I tried again and finally had the light turn on probably at least 20 years after I had the initial idea.
It’s really a simple metaphor that said a lot to me for comparing religion and spirituality. Religions set limits upon us, despite what it might claim to set us free. If it did, it still does through limitations like you can’t do this, or that, and so on. Religion also seeks to make us ideal, or at least more ideal in the role model of their deities. Combining the two, I thought a circular boundary to be an the perfect metaphor.
I think of spirituality as being similar to religion, except that you find what’s right for you and determine what limits you want to limit yourself on regarding various matters, also to make yourself and/or your life better.
So the difference is then this.
With religions, with all their rules, traditions, requirements and many followers, they’re like a circle into which you and many others have to find a spot within. If you think of it as being filled with dots for people, there’s only going to be one at the centre for whom everything the religion dictates will be ideal. There’ll be some for whom most of the religions’ requirements, points of views and such, will work. They’re close to the centre. As you get further from the centre, you’ll find the people for whom less and less of the religion works well. They might be closer to some ideals and requirements (some points on the circumference of that circle), meaning they agree and/or practice those ideals and requirements, but they’ll be further from some. An example might be someone OK with same sex marriages but not for abortions, both of which some religions denounce. Where you fit might be chance, or you might consciously decide to move around and take a stance closer to some issues and further away from others.
With spirituality, though, because you decide on what all the issues, ideals, practices, requirements, etc. are, they’re all evenly balanced from you. They’re suited to you, and they were made for you, with you in mind, by you who practice the spirituality, and so on. That’s why it’s like a circle with only you in it, and you at the centre of it.
For me, given how important what religion and spirituality could be for a person, I opt for the latter without a doubt ever. It’s too important a thing to sacrifice and leave in the control of others. I also think that’s the problem with a lot of religious people. They just squeeze themselves into some circle and just exist, or move about, in it as needed. They put up with the fact they’re not at the centre of it, which isn’t a selfish thing because one can sacrifice a lot for the good of others in spirituality. One just doesn’t have to sacrifice one’s beliefs like that, nor buy into the beliefs of others and follow it blindly just to stay in the circle, which is a major downfall of religions.
Regardless of what you or others think, though, this poem is about as elegantly and as fully as I can summarize the difference between religion and spirituality.
The O-series of poems are one stanza poems composed before I got onto writing haiku and tanka, and short poetry while in action or traveling by select means like plane or ferry. These poems are 3-9 lines long with at least one rhyming couplet, and not of the short forms just mentioned. For the sake of elegance, I just called the collection One.