Re-energizing Spirituality in a Secular Context

"I’m constantly reading texts from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. Art is about re-energizing spirituality in a secular context. We do religion, beyond the doctrine...I practice religion extensively, what I don’t do — like a Southern politician — is talk about it."

~ Theater and opera director Peter Sellars, from "Demon Opera," New York Times Sunday Magazine, Domains (9.14.08).

Mr. Sellars teaches Art as Social Action and Art as Moral Action at the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures.

Below is an excerpt of an interview from the PBS program, "The Question of God": 

For me, one of the hardest things to deal with about the 20th century — and I'm very relieved that it's finished — is that it was so absorbed in psychology and the self. Psychology is probably the least interesting thing going on in your life. At the end of the day, reducing your life to your own psychological problems is to devalue your place in history, is to devalue your political commitments, is to devalue what we're all doing here for each other. It is to devalue what overwhelming waves of spiritual energy or insight are breaking upon us, in the midst of these catastrophes, and not to get that life is difficult for a reason. It's not to get that we are actually being pushed, and pulled, and drawn out of ourselves.

This obsession with the self is of course exactly the opposite of centuries of spiritual seeking, which were all about how to escape the self. How can we finally annihilate this thing called the self, and literally transcend it?

That's what's so liberating about opera, because nobody can do it alone. The soprano is dependent on the oboe player, who is dependent on the person whose finger is on the switch on the light board, who is dependent on the person who raised the curtain, who is dependent on the person who tore the ticket, who is dependent on the person who served you your drink at intermission.

Hello! You're having this total experience. No part of it could ever be isolated — it's only possible because the whole cosmology comes into play. And human beings are doing this astounding thing, which is working together to make something that is way beyond their individual selves, or capacities, and that lifts everybody to a new place.