Why Spirituality Matters

Antonius Tsai
4 min readJan 4, 2024

Everything that the modern mind cannot define it regards as insane.
– Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy

Spirituality and religion are topics that can evoke strong reactions. Even for those who may not identify with religion, there is nevertheless a part of our consciousness that is spiritual.

This spiritual aspect of who we are looks beyond our day-to-day lives. It’s about making a connection with something greater than ourselves — whichever form that may take for you.

The Dog Analogy

What is spirituality anyway? A useful way to define it would be that spirituality deals with matters beyond our direct physical experience. Because it can be difficult to comprehend what is beyond our experience, we sometimes dismiss the whole notion.

We can use an analogy to illustrate. Let’s say that you have a dog, and next Tuesday, you plan to take her to the vet for a shot. When next Tuesday rolls around, you take her to the vet to get the shot. Simple.

Simple to you that is. What does the dog experience? Does the dog understand the concept of next Tuesday or vaccines? To her, the whole experience is probably somewhat random. The dog will never really understand why all this happened, yet there was an order to the process.

As human beings, we know more than dogs about most things. However, there are things that we are never likely to grasp. Consider the limits to what a 5-year-old can understand. Consider the limits of a 15-year-old. When you become an adult, this does not magically unlock an understanding of all things. There are limits to our finite understanding. There are things which seem random to us but might make sense from a higher perspective.

Spirituality, which is inclusive of religious forms, is the human method for connecting to that which is beyond us. We are part of the larger system of life and there are things at our level that we cannot grasp. When we run into the limits of human means, we appeal to something greater than ourselves.

Our Two Selves

You may say, “If I’m never likely to grasp it, then why should I bother?” Well, let’s explore why it matters.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes: “The essence of man is really his paradoxical nature, the fact that he is half animal and half symbolic.” We can use an example of Thanksgiving dinner to illustrate his point.

Human beings need to eat to survive — same as any animal. When we eat Thanksgiving dinner, we eat in part to survive. At the same time, human beings have spiritual needs beyond survival. After all, why go through all the trouble of preparing the Thanksgiving dinner along with all of its rituals? The reason for Thanksgiving dinner is also to serve the symbolic side to our existence. It’s not just to eat, but it’s also to experience meaning in the gathering. Thanksgiving is a special meal because of the symbolism of the meal.

This symbolism also exists in births, weddings, anniversaries, and funerals, among many other life events. When one proposes marriage, there’s often an exchange of rings, which symbolize a bond. A symbol such as the exchange of rings is spiritual in nature because the rings themselves don’t have any physical properties to bond people together. It is symbolic. If you look at the lives of human beings, you will see symbols of meaning (i.e. the spiritual) everywhere.

When you have a career, your career in part ensures your survival. You need to pay the bills and put food on the table. At the same time, your career exists to bring meaning to your life. When you do your job well and that work serves others, it creates meaning. Where does this meaning come from? It comes from your connection to something greater. In serving others, we connect to life as a whole. This is the symbolic/spiritual part of our career.

You are not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.
– Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

Our Connection to Something Larger

None of us will live forever. At the end of our life, we can reflect back and wonder whether this was a well-lived life. If we have only done things to advance ourselves, we will not be satisfied in our review. However, if we have lived according to higher principles and have served others — affirming our connection to that which is beyond us — we will likely be satisfied with the way that we lived this life.

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Antonius Tsai

My work is in helping people connect to their greater selves and authentic purpose. (https://antoniustsai.com/)