In the spirit: A conversation about spirituality with poet Luke Hankins

Luke Hankins

Editor’s note: As part of Xpress‘ In the Winter Spirit issue, we reached out to local poets, religious leaders, activists and soothsayers to share their thoughts on the topic of spirituality. Below is one in a series of conversations featured in this week’s issue. 

Luke Hankins is a local poet and the founder of Orison Books, a local nonprofit literary press.

Xpress: What does spirituality mean to you, and how do you experience it in Western North Carolina? 

Hankins: I think the spirit is the aspect of the self that underlies or exceeds (pick your spatial metaphor) the rational mind. It operates intuitively and holistically, drawing on connections and apperceptions beyond our ability to identify or catalog. The spirit may be an actual entity — the “soul” — or it may simply be a way for us to speak about a profound aspect of human nature and experience. It doesn’t really matter to me which it is.

For those seeking to embrace a more spiritual life, what advice would you offer? 

Read poetry! From ancient times to today, so much of poetry depends on and fosters contemplation, deep attention, porosity of mind and heart, and much more that is essential to the spiritual life.

What misconceptions exist about spirituality? 

That it’s about finding the right answers or the correct system. That’s the basis of all fundamentalism and, ironically, is more a product of the rational mind’s attempts to codify and to control uncertainty than it is about engaging with our spiritual aspect. Spirituality, for me, is actually quite the opposite — it’s abiding in uncertainty, opening oneself to the mystery of being.


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