That Roger Housden is an acolyte of astonishment has been evident in his books on poetry, including Ten Poems to Change Your Life and Ten Poems to Open Your Heart and the magnificent novel Chasing Rumi: A Fable about Finding the Heart's True Desire. These books encourage us to unfurl our senses and experience the marvelous wonders of yearning and transformation. Some of the same vibrancy and flair is present in this elegantly written examination of the concerns and inclinations of those on the path of individuation — the "spiritual but not religious" sector of the American population. They are more interested in what they can do than in what to believe. They are looking for connections that give life meaning and purpose rather than dogmas that explain truth in formulaic passages.
Housden is affirming a faith that is nurtured in the heart and moves beyond our mania for answers — it is "a nonreligious faith [that] allows us to live with uncertainty, change, and ultimately death, not because we believe that a better place awaits us, but because we intuitively sense that there is an intelligence, an inherent rightness, in the way life presents itself moment by moment."
This knowing heart is at the core of a secular spirituality that centers on ten themes that "deepen our faith in the value and meaning of being human." One is "Trust the Mystery." Here is a humble acceptance of the unknowability of human nature and the world around us. Another is to embrace the darkness when it comes to visit us in suffering, disappointment, or tragedy. Housden sees joy as "a pure expression of the human spirit. It often appears unbridled, unfettered, and ultimately, for no reason." The doorway to joy is the present moment so don't miss it!
Housden observes that "Feeling our soon-not-to-be-hereness in our bones may be the best motivation we have for waking up to the miracle that we are here now at all." This is one of the insights that comes with growing older and learning to trust imperfection, another of Housden's themes. Our mistakes and failures give us a chance to embrace ourselves exactly as we are. He points to the Japanese appreciation for beauty in the imperfect — it's called wabi sabi and it celebrates age, wear, and tear. Housden has always been enchanted with beauty which he calls "one of the saving graces of being alive."
This is a beautifully written explanation of a secular spirituality for the seekers of our times. These ten themes are indeed ways to keep the faith without — and even within — religion, and Housden is a fine guide to the territory.