Augustus Pompous Smedley, the Bay’s notorious irritant whose tales and adventures are often related in this column, confided to Out of Bounds the other day that he has been blasted by long list of offended readers – with most of them being his relatives. As you may recall, this column in the last two weeks told of Smedley’s “religious survey”, directed to a bunch of his relatives that he had encountered over the Christmas Holidays. Smedley used this column as his conduit to these people and in doing so, he was also surreptitiously (sneakily, he thought), taking a swing at all the readers of this column.
Now, giving Smedley the benefit of having a pure motive, he claims that the “survey” was used to get people to examine their belief systems, to double check the wholesomeness of their value system. This effort was coming out of his own life experiences hoping to pass on to others, and, if heeded, to save them from the kind of misery he endured for forty years. Smedley was absolutely convinced that the very poorest of belief systems was the one he chose – that ones self was the best authority on how to live.
Smedley went on to explain that his early ego-centered, higher power-denying choice led to a very deep pit not only for him – but the most important people in his life, his wife, children, and family. He went on to say that, fortunately, he found a better path, causing a lot less damage as he traveled the new way.
So what was the reaction to Smedley’s “survey”? Total silence, save for one brave young man and one supporter of his cause. Not surprising, says Smedley, for many reasons. He says that most people are not willing to share their beliefs because they regard this subject as purely “personal” or “private”, not to be shared with pushy, nosy, proselyting folks like, well, Smedley.
Another and probably the more genuine reason for people to remain unmoved in this touchy area of life, is that they are comfortable in their current belief systems. They are not looking to change. Self is a very jealous god and is extremely difficult to dethrone. “I Did It My Way” is more than a song title; it is the mantra of many people today in our post-Christian society.
According to Smedley, another reason why people resist serious inner change is that certain lifestyles offer a certain amount of ego satisfying self-righteousness. There are two main tracks for this soul comforting contrivance: one is healthy eating; and the other is body/soul exercise. The benefits of healthy eating are indeed real resulting less disease, more energy, better functioning bodies. The catch here is that there is a temptation to assign “inner goodness” or a “righteousness” to healthy eating. The sign in the Colorado organic restaurant ZEAL put it this way: “Healthy organic foods enhance both the Body and the Soul!” There is a evangelistic flavor to the healthy food devotees that implies a person is more “righteous” if one eats healthy organic foods.
Similar to the idea that organic food lifestyle offers inner wholesomeness (character, virtue) so are the claims for the body/mind/soul exercise of Yoga. Once again,the underlying benefits of exercise is undisputed: more energy, increased muscle tone, fewer skeleton problems. All good. Quieting the mind is also beneficial in relaxing tensions extending to body movements. The snag here is that somehow, all this quietness is credited to a spiritual presence and the exerciser somehow is transported to a higher plane of peaceful consciousness. A blank mind is seen as peace. What is often not disclosed in much of Yoga and Meditation is that behind it all is a belief system that is Hinduistic irrationalism.
Smedley is quite firm when he says, “The truth that is behind all this Yoga shaking, stretching, and mantra mumbling is that it is a mis-attribution of physical benefits coming not from rational healthy exercise but from the vague spirits hovering in the Hindu belief system, the home of karma, nirvana, superstition, and millions of gods. The bottom line is that righteousness is all of God flowing from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, available to those who believe in Him. It clearly is not a result of healthy eating and good exercise. Sorry.”
Oops! It looks like Smedley has strayed over the line again. “Too bad”, the recalcitrant geezer says.