Brown/My Turn: Our Big (spiritual) Picture

When one takes flight training and navigates between one location and another, the novice pilot is advised by an instructor to keep an eye on what is known as the “Big Picture.” Instead of focusing on a particular landmark, like a bridge or a road intersection, the Big Picture encompasses several dozens of miles, giving the aviator a more general view. Ascending to two miles above Turners Falls airport, such a position gives one the Catskills to the west, the Green Mountains to the north, Boston on the eastern horizon and Long Island Sound to the far south. I’m often amazed how small New England is when seen from the Big Picture perspective.

Taking a long view comes in handy with one’s personal life as well. It’s easy for all of us to get bogged down in the minute details of life whereby the nonworking lawnmower, little Susie’s poor report card and the shedding cat become monumental and seemingly insurmountable problems. The Big Picture would surpass such annoyances and focus on deeper issues, ones that reside at the core of our being. Am I living the life I want to lead? Have I deferred any cherished dreams? Do I have family and friends that nurture me? Do my actions reflect the highest of my personal values? These are not easily answered especially when we face the fears and doubts keeping us from realizing our true selves.

Viewing the progress of our global society from the Big Picture vantage point raises us above the follies of politics and religion. People are a messy mixture of high ideals and low behavior. Nations, like individuals, have their shadow sides as well as their more benevolent attributes. Despite the dark and gloomy editorials seen periodically on these pages castigating the United States, we are no different than most nations, just bigger, louder and more influential. One notices the misfires of a Maserati quicker than that of a VW Bug.

Those of us born under the sign of Aquarius have restless minds that can cast hundreds of years into the future, even if we can’t make social plans for the following weekend. Add a sense of history that demonstrates humanity’s ability to survive despite its follies and I wonder where we all are headed. I once wanted to become a theologian, so the spiritual advancement of the human race has always fascinated me.

Looking at the Big Picture, it appears that every 2,000 years or so, civilization goes through an evolutionary shift as to how we link up to the Divine. Six thousand years ago, people worshipped myriad gods by sacrificing goats, oxen and their teenage daughters to big piles of rocks. Two millennia later, Abraham and Akhenaten introduced the concept of monotheism. Henceforth, sacrifices (increasingly without teenage daughters) were made to the unseen One God. Within the next 20 centuries, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed appeared with a more advanced message. A moral code of behavior was preached along with a discontinuation of sacrifices. Now God would be witnessed through a rigid set of rituals with specific places, times and intermediaries giving structure to religious faith. Astrologically, this coincided with the Piscean Age, which explains why the symbol of the early Christian fish was the fish (“Ichthys”), which still adorns the vehicles of the devout.

This is where we stand now but yet another change is underfoot. Spirituality has arrived and, despite the goofy excesses of the New Age Movement, is here to stay. Recent polls indicate that more Americans are turning away from traditional structured religions, not because they have suddenly become atheists but because the old forms are no longer satisfactory. Ironically, it was Jesus who observed in a parable that one cannot put new wine into old wineskins, meaning that new ideas cannot fit into antiquated systems. Spirituality means that we can access our divinity directly. At any time or place, a soul can reunite with the God Force, whether at home, driving to the mall or in the bleachers at Fenway Park. No priest, rabbi, imam, or guru is necessary. Everyone has a direct connection to the God within.

Of course, the old ways die hard. One reason why there is an upsurge in violent, reactionary fundamentalism is because it is on the way out. As awful as it appears, within a hundred years or so, such aberrations will be nothing but a distant memory. Future generations will shake their heads in wonder that people once could hate and kill each other over something as silly as an interpretation of God.

Those who doubt such a profound transformation should consider the following. Around 200 A.D, the Roman Empire was the mightiest force on the planet while Christianity was a small, persecuted minority. Three hundred years later, that empire ceased to exist, its remnants bowing before the omnipotence of the Catholic Church.

That was then. Things happen much faster nowadays.

Daniel A. Brown has lived in Franklin County since 1970 as an artist, writer, amateur historian, and photographer. He is a frequent contributor to the Recorder and welcomes feedback at

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