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[Restless Hearts]

by Jim Pender

[Kandinsky's Spitzen im Bogen]The following is an excerpt from Jim Pender's doctoral thesis from the University of Calgary, published 2000.


... changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
- W. B. Yeats, Easter 1916

THIS THESIS IS about the spiritual journey. Specifically, it concerns itself with the journey taken by those who can be called seekers. Those people who are looking for an experience of authenticity in their spiritual lives and who have had the courage to keep searching until they found the answer to their heart's longing. At the dawn of the third millennium, there is a renewed interest in spirituality. A quick perusal of most any bookstore will reveal not only numerous titles dealing with spiritual subject matter but, also, whole sections devoted to this topic.

In addition, interest in spirituality is reflected in the popular media through a number of primetime television programs as well as in feature length motion pictures. The presence and popularity of so-called seeker-oriented churches, too, attest to a tangible and burgeoning interest in the area of spirituality. Today there is a broad array of spiritual possibilities that include eastern religions, evangelical and fundamentalist teachings, mysticism, so-called New Age beliefs, Goddess worship and the revival of other ancient religious rituals, twelve-step groups dealing with a wide range of issues, environmental concerns, and holistic health (Roof, 1993 , p.5). The past decade has also seen a growing dialogue and literature pertaining to the link between work and spirituality.

[This quest, which ultimately speaks to nothing less than existential meaning, is nothing new--it is, in fact as old as humanity itself.]All this speaks to the reality of the spiritual life being both broadly based and impacting virtually all of us on many levels. This quest, which ultimately speaks to nothing less than existential meaning is nothing new — it is, in fact, as old as humanity itself. The spiritual journey has been variously referred to as the Long Search (Smart, 1981), the Holy Longing (Rolheiser, 1999), and the Great Search (Wilber, 1999). These references to the spiritual journey are attempts to articulate a process that engages and affects us in the most intimate, and personal, of ways. It is an experience of the heart that is compelling — even irresistible — it is a journey that is often filled with pain but, too, holds that great promise of a peaceful heart. This quest for meaning, and an accompanying spirituality that facilitates an experience of authenticity, is an issue of universal concern. It is an acknowledgment that, as Morton Kelsey puts it, "we are immersed in the spiritual world" (1982, p.33).

I should tell you, I have always been something of a spiritual junkie. My interest in this subject, then, is a personal one. As a consequence, this thesis is unavoidably confessional in nature — my own story and experience is inextricably woven throughout this study. This forms something of a two-edged sword: it provided a passionate basis for the study but, too, contributes to its limitations.

I was born into one of those large and loud Irish-Catholic families — the sort of collection of souls where our familial imperative was "wherever two or more Penders are gathered, there shall be a party!" My family was this stew of boisterous love, seasoned with large doses of teasing. Like many families, we cycled through times of deep personal challenges, some of which were painfully tragic, and times of wonderful, abiding joy. The unusual closeness which my seven siblings and I enjoy to this day is a testament to my parents' own native ability to provide a model of family life that was flexible enough to include and encourage both the individuality and the uniqueness of eight children.

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