Or anyone else who might be interested.
In his recent interview with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW’s The Treatment, actor-writer-director Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) talked about his new film, Wish I Was Here, which Braff described as a story of a man “searching for himself in a quirky, funny way….struggling to find his own spirituality.” Zach no longer professes the Jewish faith in which he was raised and claims not to believe in any “higher power.” Braff’s intriguing interview raises three questions:
1. Why should human beings feel a spiritual void if there is no higher power to begin with? Is this a mere residue of a religious upbringing (Cf. “Catholic guilt”), or do human beings possess some kind of natural desire for the spiritual?
2. How is it possible that a human being would have to go in “search of the self”? What is the self that it is something that can be lost? And how does the search for the self relate to the struggle to find a spirituality? Is it the same struggle?
In the interview Mr. Braff states: “When you don’t believe in a higher power per se, what my spirituality is is finding some way of dealing with the, I don’t want to say ‘curse,’ but the mind-f@!# of living on a spinning rock in the middle of infinity. What my spirituality is is the science of it all, the earth, the elements, the fact that we’re evolved from cells and looking into nature. You know, I see God in little things, I mean I feel cheesy saying this but it’s the truth, in an orchid…I see that as my higher power…or you go online and see some bizarre-looking animal that lives a zillion miles under the sea and I see some higher power in that….”
3. The poet William Blake talked about the ability “To see a World in a grain of sand,/And Heaven in a wildflower….” Is that what you find, too, Mr. Braff, in the zygote and the orchid and the bizarre sea creature? If so, then this is an interesting kind of spirituality or transcendence, a transcendence based upon “the science of it all” in which you stand in what the novelist Walker Percy called “a posture of objectivity over against the world, a world which he [the scientist] sees as a series of specimens or exemplars, and interactions, energy exchanges, secondary causes….” From this godlike vantage point, the world indeed looks pretty spectacular, but also ultimately reducible to material actions and reactions of finite duration. Question: how is it possible to sustain transcendence or spiritual uplift when the object of one’s privileged vision, beautiful as it is, is also as prone to decay as you and I are?