Why Spiritual Highs Scare Me

I’ve been listening to a song lately with a poetic description of something everybody, religious or non-religious, experiences: spiritual highs.

It’s called Rudy by Supertramp, from my favorite of their albums, Crime of the Century. Beginning with the words “Rudy’s on a train to nowhere,” it escalates into Rudy realizing he needs to get his life together.

From a third-person narrative, Rudy goes through a lengthy introspective examination, concluding:

You’d better gain control now
You’d better show’em all now
You’d better make or break now
You’d better give and take now
You’ll have to push and shove now
You’ll have to find some love now
You’d better gain control now.

Those words would seem cliché and/or inspiring if not for the next line, which drops to a lower octave and delivers four last lines:

Now he’s just come out the movie,
Numb of all the pain.
Sad, but in a while he’ll soon be
Back on his train…

Those lines haunt me, because whether I’m experiencing a spiritual high connected to my faith or while watching a great movie, I know the feeling of leaving the theater: the high is gone. All the conviction I may have felt is gone, it’s doesn’t matter afterward. I’ll feel better if I give myself time. It’s easy to discredit my emotions in a moment of excitement and revelation.

I wrote this line in one of my recent poems: “Hear something, and don’t act on it, and you’ll be comfortable in silencing your soul.”

That’s why every time I enter a church and the leader is going for a spiritual high, I get a bit scared. They’re not there to have a lasting change, they’re there for a moment of feeling great, and then they’ll leave the church building, and it will feel to them just like coming out of a good movie. Good stuff, they might say, but it’s like hearing a mere story, not treating conviction as a fable with an applicable moral.

The only way I’ve found to break this viciousness is to act on the things that inspire me. It doesn’t matter what it is, I must at least write it down, pass it on, or in some small way implement it.

Sometimes I look silly when I do this. It means when I realize something and I have to send a message to an old friend, I do it right then. It makes life feel urgent in the midst of everyday schedules. It’s why my priorities look lopsided to everyone around me, and I seem to be distantly connected to a far-off universe.

Comfort comes from silencing my conscience because I can get used to it. My brain gets programmed into hearing and not doing if that’s what I consistently do.

I’d rather be uncomfortable.