A recent article in The New York Times, dated May 17, 2015 discussed recent data about “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” The Pew Research Center found the following: 1. There is a rise in the unaffiliated [in this category, there’s been a rise of six percentage points within the last seven years, totaling about 23% of all Americans-in this category there are people that describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. Within this group, there are those that have little use for belief, as well as the acts associated with it. While others in the grouping believe in God, pray at least occasionally and think of themselves as spiritual people]. 2. At least a third of Americans today do not maintain the religious affiliation with which they were raised. 3. Many of these individuals are likely “Shelias”-individuals who believe in God, but do not attend church and trust their own internal voice to direct themselves on a spiritual path.
Another article in The New York Times talked about the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail spans 2650 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. This trail has been traversed by many either by hiking, running or on horseback. The trail spans cactus, desert, redwoods with uneven temperature patterns [triple digits to snow] along with having to traverse rivers and deal with rattlesnakes, bears and other wildlife. It’s estimated that fewer individuals have traversed the full Pacific Crest Trail than have reached the summit of Mount Everest. However, the beauty of the adventure is that it can be accomplished in parts or segments. One does not have to do the entire 2650 miles at one time. Moreover, more and more hikers than ever are hitting the trail. In fact, there’s currently a limit of up to 50 thru hikers per day on a journey that begins from the Mexican border.
Perhaps the book by Eric Rybak or different movie versions of “The Wild” are incentives for many of these hikers. Spirituality, as well as camaraderie are other motivations for Americans. Let’s face it, can you think of a better place along this journey to experience spirituality? And because of more and more individuals on the trail, there is a greater opportunity to connect with others along the way. We remain social as well as herd human animals when confronted with awesome endeavors. Individuals have been known to share food, water and one individual even found her husband on this very journey.
Further, perhaps, Luther and Calvin of the Reformation era provided an underlying base for motivation. Their religious philosophy emphasized, in part, the liberation of man, individual initiative, hard work, human autonomy with dignity. This resulted in a marked change in the psychology of man from the medieval societies. On the other hand, the philosophy of the existentialists such as Kierkegaard and others hypothesized about finding meaning in life through experience and rationality. They saw the human being as lost, separate, conforming, powerless, helpless, anonymous and helpless while becoming more insignificant-a cog in the wheel in the technological advances and mass production taking place in our capitalistic economic society. They also saw the collapsing of formal religion and would have predicted the current phenomena taking place in the United States.
Perhaps, the drop in traditional church membership might be related to this psychology of man. Apparently there’s no drop in finding one’s own spirituality, only in church attendance. Will this United States trend continue? And, if you researched the numerous people hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, you might find a higher number of individuals who do not attend a physical or traditional church, temple or synagogue. In fact, they may have found a spiritual meaning in their lives. Further, being on the trail is terrific for mental and physical health. Spirituality, meaning, initiative, achievement, hard work, personal bests and friendship are just some of the things that one can find on the trail.
A past post about my nightmare did not foreshadow yesterday’s [19+ miles] Western States 100 training run. The run was good as I did not lose my voice, cramp or suffer any injury. Tony did well on his run. On the ride back to Forest Hill, Tony sat next to an individual who came in fourth place on the Western States 100 run last year. I sat next to woman who won my book “It Has Nothing to Do with Age” on a 50 K trail run two years ago. This years’ experience was good. I’ll catch you on the trail.