Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jesuit Principles and Individuality

Whether we recognize it or not, we all travel through life searching for our inner meanings and external purposes. While some may coin this process as seeking one’s individuality, a term that most certainly applies, this inner self journey is much more for it is a recognition of one’s true spirituality, or how one and the world most powerfully connect. This form of travel centers on one’s individual growth and the recognition of what form of spirituality sets him or her apart from the rest of the world. And the best (or maybe the worst) part about this journey is that it does not allow for time constraints: some may understand their true meaning and purpose earlier than others and it might even take a whole lifetime for one to fully grasp his or her inner spirituality. But this inner development, whether we recognize it or not, fuels all of our actions and thoughts and frames our world views.
Some may find that religion is the source of this inner spirituality while others may see otherwise. Although religion is almost always associated with spirituality, it is not always the final answer; religion can frame one’s spirituality but does not have to be the sole determinant characteristic. From my own personal experience, I am not a religious person but easily see in other’s lives the importance of religion. Attending Loyola has allowed me to view religion and spirituality as two separate yet connected entities, as two sources of individuality that can be independent or dependent of one another, depending on the individual. As a Jesuit institution, Loyola provides many opportunities for realizing one’s world purpose in that it encourages a broad range of service to the community, a well-rounded education system, and inner reflection. Almost every Loyola student finds a way to connect to the university community and to his or her self, proving that the Jesuit religious framework can allow students and others to find their specific forms of spirituality, whether completely connected or distantly connected to a religious meaning.
Kolvenbach’s essay, The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, he includes the Jesuit dedication to the “service of faith and the promotion of justice” as a kind of motto to how the Jesuit community should interact with the world. According to Kolvenbach, this broad Jesuit principle applies to everyone for it allows every individual to have his or her own impact on the community: “The summary expression ‘the service of faith and the promotion of justice’ has all the characteristics of a world-conquering slogan, using a minimum of words to inspire a maximum of dynamic vision; but it runs the risk of ambiguity” (25). While the ambiguity is nice in that the slogan can apply to every individual, it can, for those who need structure, cause anxiety. Because the process of self-discovery can be a life-long journey, many seek structure in places that can hinder growth. In order to get past this anxiety, one has to just recognize that identity is an ever-changing form of travel and that one’s true self will not disappear but will further and further rise to the surface.
Tales of the Tikongs presents an example of a community of characters that rely completely on religion to provide life structure. Instead of accessing religion in a spiritual way, the characters force religion upon themselves and never truly recognize how they individually connect to the world. Religion becomes a form of conditioning rather than a spiritual experience. The Tikongs do not seek individuality or their own true forms of spirituality because they do not understand that identity can be separate from religion, that religion does not have to be one’s whole self. Because the characters get nothing out of their religious experiences except structure, they do not allow themselves to grow or travel. Unlike the Jesuit slogan and Loyola’s interpretation of this principle, Tiko and it’s community members do not recognize the greatness in flexibility and do not understand that spirituality is completely individual; they do not recognize the difference between religion and belief or religion and inner spirituality and therefore do not seek their individual identities.

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