Volume > Issue > Spirituality for the Self-Centered

Spirituality for the Self-Centered


By J. A. Gray | April 1998
J. A. Gray is Deputy Editor of the NOR.

It happens every time I wait in the supermarket checkout line: A gorgeous female gets my attention and flashes a dazzling smile. Another does the same, and then another, and another, until I am confronted by a row of beauties beaming at me, beckoning. I come closer to see what they want. Apparently, they want me to buy the magazines on whose covers they appear. Ladies, you are lovely, but we go through this every week. You promise too much: Can you really bestow upon your reader great hair and firm abdominals, success at work and fashion for pennies, powerful orgasms and quick gourmet meals, stress-free dating and The Truth About What Men Want? Even if you could, your magic would be wasted on me. Most of those things are out of my area. As for what men want — that I already know.

It happens every shopping day. But today, as I’m about to turn away, something tugs me back. A freckled girl with red lips and wind-tossed hair is gazing at me, radiating peacefulness and health. Above her head I read: SELF. Special Inspirational Issue. Your Spiritual Life. Below her chin is a stack of titles: The Guide to Peace of Mind. Spirituality for Beginners. What Fasting Does for Your Mind & Body. Workouts to Soothe the Soul. Why Is Buddhism So Hip? The 10 Commandments: What They Mean Today. Her lips seem to say: I know what men like you want.

I reach for her. I must have her — magazine. My, it’s hefty. And only $2.50 As thick as four or five NORs, for the price of one.

Back home, as I begin paging through SELF (Dec. 1997 issue), a seductive smell rises from a perfume swatch that promises to show me a new “sensory world.” That would be nice. But I’ve come looking for the new spiritual world promised on the cover and I don’t yet sense it. Spread across the first two pages, a woman in black lace lounges on a pillowy sofa while a golden bottle of parfum gleams on the hardwood floor. Her unlined face, her placid mien, and her brilliant eyes may be the results of contemplative prayer and deep meditation (I have heard sages and saints thus described). But — they may be makeup and lighting and airbrush. How can I tell?

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