Just the questions (tl; dr)
What comes to mind when you think of spirituality?
What makes something spiritual?
How do you practice spirituality?
Do you ever notice that a lot of the words we use don’t really mean anything? Or mean a lot of things, so it can be difficult to pin down what’s actually being said?
This has happened to me a couple of times recently. The first was when I came across a reference to “idiosyncratic language” in autistic kids a few weeks ago. I either hadn’t seen that mentioned before or hadn’t paid attention to it, and I couldn’t figure out the meaning from context, so I couldn’t tell if it was something I had done myself or noticed in others. Google time!
Except that was totally unhelpful. I assumed from the way others were using it that it was a technical term and my best bet was looking for the whole phrase. (Plus I thought I knew the word “idiosyncratic” already…I was confusing it with “idiomatic” and therefore it made even less sense – doesn’t everyone use idiomatic language? Isn’t that…kind of what the word means?) I found lots of examples, but no definitions. And the examples had nothing in common.
Several parents chimed in to say their autistic kids used idiosyncratic language. In some cases this meant they used cute kid terms for things when they don’t know what it’s called. In some cases, they describe things when they don’t know what they’re called! Sometimes it’s just that they give a warning about specific dangers rather than simply telling a sibling to be careful. Soooo…idiosyncratic language is a way of saying “they use words in ways that make sense and actually communicate useful information?”
When I finally gave up and thought to double-check the definition of “idiosyncratic,” I found out it basically just means unusual. It doesn’t mean anything specific, these parents are literally just saying “that’s not the way I would say it, how odd.” Of course, now my personal definition of it in relation to autism is “perfectly sensible and efficient communication that for some reason confuses allistic caregivers.” ;D
The current “what does this even mean?” word is “spirituality.” Based on a discussion I had in a study group last week, I was planning to do a post on my personal spirituality and ways my experience of it might be affected by autism. Right away I realized such example – I like straightforward definitions and structures, and “spirituality” does not have those. There are many definitions of spirituality and no consensus. It has too many possible meanings, and therefore in my mind has no meaning at all. Where do I draw the boundaries when I’m talking about it? What parts of my life are spiritual and which aren’t? I have no idea.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking for better definitions online. No luck so far. So I’m going about it backwards this time. Instead of moving from examples to definition, I’m giving up on official definitions and looking for group consensus…or at least enough examples to help form my own opinion. What is spirituality?