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Religion, Google Maps and The Inner Compass
Thoughts on a long drive home
I was away for a week on a writing retreat and it was time to come home. As I usually do, I programmed my route into Google Maps and had the map running in the background as I drove.
I put on Spotify and chose to listen to a podcast interview with Paul Kingsnorth about his conversion to Christianity. I discovered Paul on YouTube where he made a video with Charles Eisenstein called ‘The Pandemic is a Prism’, a refreshing philosophical discussion around cultural divisions during the last two years. I was interested in him, being an Englishman living in Galway, so I wanted to learn more and looked him up. I enjoyed the podcast as I drove, I found it intelligent and interesting, and honest. There’s so much schlock out there, as the Nik Kershaw song says, most people are loud, proud, confident and wrong, and I have little time for that anymore.
I relaxed as I drove and listened. Paul said that he experienced a profound change once he embraced the structure of the church, and one of the things that he liked about it was the discipline required, having to sometimes take part in things that he didn’t necessarily want to do, but were part of the church ethos. His logical argument made me wonder if religion was something that I needed, too.
I currently feel very secure spiritually. I hold God at my centre, I connect to the light at all times, but I don’t make myself deliberately do anything I don’t want to do just to prove my dedication to God. I feel that showing up every day and being of-service is integral to how I live. ‘Thy will be done’ is my everyday way of being. However, if I don’t regularly keep myself in check, ‘Thy will’ could easily become ‘my will’. So I wondered, should I turn to a church for their idea of what ‘Thy will’ is, just in case mine isn’t good enough?
While pondering this I realised that some part of me needed to have Google Maps running in the background while I drove, yet I still wanted to keep my spiritual freedom. I found the dichotomy quite interesting.
Google Maps tells me exactly how many minutes is left of my travel, it keeps me on the correct route, and if I make a mistake it reroutes me so that I’ll never get lost. That offers a great sense of security. It also offers the option to search along your chosen route for coffee or petrol stations, which is kind of nice. A church does a similar sort of navigating for you - if you’re in a religion you’d never have to ask if you’re idea of what God wants from you is in alignment with what he actually wants. (However, if you were to go deeper into this you could ask ‘Does the Church know what God actually wants?’ but I feel that’s another day’s discussion. Let’s just assume that the Church does know for now.)
So back to me, driving and listening. I knew that I know where my home is, but why couldn’t I trust that if I did need a coffee shop or a petrol station, I would find it along the path? Isn’t that akin to faith? So I switched off Google Maps and drove without it for a while. My route was validated every time I saw a sign for Dublin, and I continued to listen to Paul. He described the mythic story that's currently missing from the world, how people have gotten lost from their purpose and sense of belonging, and how Christianity has given that back to him.
I’m currently engrossed in writing The Inner Compass Trilogy. It’s based on mythic archetypal energies and the shamanic work that I do, set in this reality, exploring the inner journey of growth and spiritual expansion. (The first book, Awakening, will be published next week. Scary and exciting!) My experience with healing allows me to explore deep into the human psyche, unpick the tangles and discover disconnections that happen where life gets in the way, heal the broken parts and weave the mythical aspect of us back into our humanity. Basically, the books are a fictional story that present spirituality and healing work in a magical way. I want to stimulate people as to what is possible, remind them of what they’ve forgotten, and rekindle something inside of them they may have lost. So I found it interesting Paul spoke of mythic maps in connection with religion which is something shamanism does so well. I always felt mythologies got lost in religion behind the structures and the requirement to control the masses (no pun intended!).
Interestingly, while I was picking my way through these thoughts, some part of me started to get nervous because Google Maps was off. So being kind and compassionate to myself, I put Google Maps back on, to see if it would help me be more at ease. I also wanted to know what exactly it was that I felt I needed from Google Maps. After I thought about it for a time I realised I liked to know exactly how long the trip was going to take. I wanted to know at all times, how long it would take for me to get home. When I thought about it, it felt like a luxury to me - is knowing this detail really that important? I reminded myself that I knew roughly when I’d get there, and when my internal aspect agreed that it was good enough for me and let it go, I realised there still was some other reason why I felt I still needed Maps to guide me.
I have the option on to see the speed limit so that I can check and double check my speed and ensure I was within the limit. This seemed more reasonable than needing to know the exact minutes of the trip’s duration. There are rules and punishments, and if you break the rules of speed, you are punished with a speeding ticket. Perhaps this a good enough reason? (Some part of me hoped so, as it wanted to keep GM on!) However, I also figured out on more thing. I realised that I’ve stopped using my own inner compass while I'm driving. I might be using it when I speak to God, when I work with clients, or do my energy work. I use it while I'm writing my books, aptly named The Inner Compass for this very reason, but why can’t I get home without Google Maps? Not good. So I switched off again.
With the current culture of surveillance I have an aversion to reporting my every movement to Google Maps. It’s in my interest to switch it off, I really wanted to be without it. I found it funny that I had to go through some sort of detoxification process where I let go of my need to know everything that Google Maps was telling me. And then I found a petrol station so I went in and I got my coffee, so I no longer needed a coffee. I didn’t need Maps to tell me that anymore.
It's interesting how society doesn't really like to be free and yet it claims that it does. Needing the security of a Google Maps container was giving me more faith that I wouldn’t get lost on my way home than trusting my own inner sense of navigation.
I reached the end of the Paul Kingsnorth interview. He said that Christianity was originally called ‘The Way’, and followers of Christianity were called ‘Children of the Light’. I could live with that. I could already be on ‘The Way’. And I could happily call myself a ‘Child of the Light’. Where, when and why did the true essence of faith and connection to God become lost? The purity of the practice turned into a mechanism for control? When did a useful electronic application designed to help you find your way home turn into a surveillance mechanism? Did the Church and Google Maps make themselves so useful to us that we gave them our complete trust without realising what we were losing? Did we, in good faith, give them a part of ourselves, without seeing their darker intentions?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s chat in the comments!