Went to an amazing Easter service to a friend's church where her hubby is a pastor. Its was awesome, with good food, great music, interesting sermon on existential issues of life especially death, and wow lots of balloons :) (and my first sari dressing-up in US).
There has been a lot of religion and spirituality lately, with child psychotherapy classes focusing on existential issues and from there moving towards religion/ spirituality in people's lives. Especially how these traditions give meaning to life apart from giving some guidelines on ethical and moral living (especially in the lives of those teenagers who neatly figure it out that 'life leads to death, so why live!' or on the other extreme, figure out that 'one who dies with most toys, wins!').
Mainstream Psychology & psychotherapy has tried to remain value-neutral over long years, but it is hard to do so being involved with the entire repertoire of human experiences.
There are frontiers of humans experiences, both good and bad. In some extreme cases one has to take a stance (and that is why most psychotherapist find it hard to work with child sexual abusers).
Thus there is more and more Psychology research happening around ideas from varied religious-spiritual traditions, especially in the last couple of years.
Whenever there is a discussion here with my friends or in classes, its difficult to explain my experience of my religion Hinduism. Guess it was never a religion (so called 'Santana dharma- means something like an eternal right way of living). And for most Hindus the growing up is still within a very loose boundary, with multiple free-floating ideas, rites and rituals etc. To think of, it is actually hard to separate out what exactly comes from Indian culture and what comes from Hindu religion and what is spirituality.
It is difficult to dig out the roots behind every action, but each family has almost reached a particular level of homeostasis where they do what they feel is important for them, with a mix of ideas from their individual tastes, family, community etc. Though there are always exceptions!
Due to this reason I feel very comfortable with all kinds of ideas and am generally able to see the abstract symbolism behind majority of the specific rites and rituals. So every time someone tells me something about their religious-spiritual tradition/ philosophy, I end up exclaiming, oh I understand this, we too have line of similar idea/ philosophy in Indian tradition. There is rarely anything alien...
For me the feeling in the church singing along was like a unity of human spirit, the way one feels in any place with a sense of deep connection and a deeper meaning.
In a more secular context I might have felt same watching Olympics on TV (where in any case India rarely has any good show, but then this is about the human spirit around sports) or may be during the recent world cup festivals of football or cricket.
However each of these deeper human experiences, the most beautiful, the most awe-inspiring, the grandest, the majestic, often touch us in our soul, deep in our emotions. On the other hand the material perspective doesn't help us cultivate this, instead it stifles any and every way to reach those peak moments. Life itself can get trivialised in a materialistic, consumption oriented culture.
One need not give example of every village's seasonal festivals being replaced by endless, mindless soap-operas on the idiot box. What was replaced was a more meaningful way of living. Even those village plays were often built around the mythological story of 'Ramayana', which not only had those poignant-sad moments (around which Nina Palsey choose to build 'Sita sings blues') which can make any feminist, including me, cringe. But there were also interesting relational aspects, deep human bonds both family and non-family, and sweetly romantic connection between the God pair- Rama & Sita. (How can we ignore the way pining Rama describes his love Sita in the most adorable ways).
On the other hand who can forget the modern day trivialised version of sports in our home turf, the multi-billion business venture by a few actors and business persons and politicians, ... IPL- our own money spinning contribution to this utterly hollow material culture!