People believe. It’s what peo­ple do. They believe. People pop­u­late the dark­ness; with ghosts, with gods, with elec­trons, with tales. People imag­ine, and peo­ple believe; and it is that rock-sol­id belief that makes things happen.

~Shadow Moon, in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

In his clas­sic book American Gods, Neil Gaiman pos­tu­lates that gods exist only by our will­ing­ness to believe in them. The pow­er of the gods is tran­si­to­ry; it expands or con­tracts based sole­ly on how fer­vent­ly mor­tals wor­ship each par­tic­u­lar deity.

Which begs the ques­tion, what do you wor­ship? We all wor­ship some­thing. Maybe it’s God or Allah or Buddha or Ganesha. Maybe it’s sex or work­ing or food or shop­ping or fame or tech­nol­o­gy or youth. I’m not talk­ing about dog­ma, but instead am inquir­ing as to where you place your per­son­al pow­er. We all will­ing­ly praise some idea, thing, or belief. And what we idol­ize cre­ates our world­view, our inter­pre­ta­tion of life shaped by what we lay on our men­tal altar. We become what we con­sume and venerate.

What do you worship? 

I want to wor­ship being awake to the holy moment with com­pas­sion and grat­i­tude. To find prayer in a per­fect cup of cof­fee. In a sun­ny dan­de­lion against green spring grass. In the smell of basil and the twang of a gui­tar string and the smile my hus­band gives me when he catch­es my eye across a crowd­ed room. In a slice of home­made sour­dough bread, still hot from the oven. In the sound of my daugh­ter doing her best Taylor Swift in the show­er. In a stranger’s smile, the branch­es of a tree, the sound of the ocean keep­ing time against the shore. I want to revere and glo­ri­fy the holy moment.

The holy moment is a sal­ad, greens and car­rots lov­ing­ly grown in your gar­den and tossed by hand. Distraction is a bag of Cheetos, a processed food-like item cre­at­ed in a lab and mar­ket­ed to keep us heavy and dull. Cheetos are a false god, a tasty amuse­ment. It’s far eas­i­er to buy and devour a bag of Cheetos than it is to raise a gar­den and patient­ly wait to reap its bounty.

Real wor­ship requires will­ing pres­ence and com­mit­ment. It takes work. And work is hard. So dis­trac­tion becomes our spir­i­tu­al bypass because it’s just, well… eas­i­er. We find it too dif­fi­cult to stay awake in a world that begs our atten­tion elsewhere.

For many of us, it goes some­thing like this.

When the holy moment occurs, I’ll be awake for it.

But maybe God can wait until I check my email.

Or when I’m done with this project.

I’ll be awake to my life as soon as I fin­ish this episode of Stranger Things.

I will def­i­nite­ly start liv­ing my best life just as soon as I lose ten pounds, find the man of my dreams, beat this Candy Crush lev­el, quit my soul-suck­ing job, get out of debt.

Just as soon as I fin­ish this bag of Cheetos.

Sound famil­iar?

We find things that give us super­fi­cial plea­sure and con­fuse them with things that tru­ly mat­ter. We exist in anoth­er moment, a past moment, a future moment, a lost moment. Heaven seems dis­tant, so we fill the void post­ing self­ies and overeat­ing and fol­low­ing the Kardashians. We replace the holy moment with social media and online shop­ping and inces­sant sports watching.

We exalt diver­sion and call it a life.

But heav­en is more a per­spec­tive than a place. Gaiman holds that the gods require wor­ship, but I think it’s the oth­er way around. Humans can­not tru­ly exist with­out wor­ship because wor­ship is about atten­tion. We wouldn’t have been designed with a brain as com­plex as ours if atten­tion wasn’t our nat­ur­al state. When we lay our atten­tion at a mean­ing­ful altar, we are pulled away from the oth­er moments into the one that lies before us. Even the painful and uncom­fort­able become bear­able when we’re awake. To live a life of pur­pose, we must learn to wor­ship well.

Mary Oliver said it best in her poem A Summer Day. “I don’t know exact­ly what a prayer is,” she mus­es. But, she adds, “I do know how to pay attention”.

I ask you again. What do you worship?

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.