10/15/2014 12:25 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2014

Spiritual Semantics

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We've all heard the cliché that Eskimos have 40 words for the word snow: the density of the snow; if it's wet or dry; if it's currently falling or already on the ground, etc. I don't know if that's really true or not but it brings up an interesting point: There are some words in the English language that, after spoken, take some clarification. How about the word "cousin"? If you are talking about your cousin to someone, the talk can then go to what gender the cousin is, and if he or she is on your mother's side or your father's side and then even further like "She's my mother's brother's daughter." Is it just me or does it seem odd to you that we don't have a specific word for your father's sister's son?

What happens when we start to talk about an intangible like the word "God"? You could say that word to someone and that person would not have the slightest clue as to your real intent. Religious tradition might make you think of a judgmental, bearded man in the clouds or of some other deity. I personally don't believe in a deity, so by strict definition, I'm an atheist. But that word is also vague. An atheist doesn't believe in a deity, but could he believe that your soul goes to heaven; and if so, what does he mean by that? We just go further down the rabbit hole.

I think the big division between science and spirituality could be narrowed by a clearer definition of our words. Our vocabulary doesn't serve us well. Sort of like "cousin." Too many misunderstandings begin because the other side doesn't have a clear vision of the meaning behind our words. For instance, I could say to you, "I'm going to go take a dip in the water." If you didn't know me, you wouldn't know if I was going into my pool, or a lake, or the ocean, or a Jacuzzi. But if I chose to be more specific, I could certainly tell you which body of water I was going to take a dip in and you wouldn't have to wonder. This is not so with God and soul and heaven. I'd have to elaborate but not before you may have already tuned me out because of your preconceived notion of what I meant by those words.

Trust me, the problem of semantics is not going to be solved in this blog. It's impossible. There are as many beliefs as to what God is as there are people. My point is that we need to understand that knee-jerk, dismissive reactions to the utterance of these words get us nowhere. In my new book, Adventures of the Soul, I put forth my beliefs as to what a soul is, what heaven is, and what "God" means to me. I stress in the book several times that this is my belief; it's not meant to be taken by the reader as the truth. It's the sharing of ideas, and the reader is free to hold what resonates with them and discard what doesn't make sense.

Because when it comes right down to it, I don't believe it's possible to comprehend the mysteries of existence using our human brains. If someone tells you that they know the true path to enlightenment and that you had better follow it or else, run! There's not a true path for everyone but there is a true path for you. The best that we can do is to construct a belief system that makes sense to us and encourages us to be the best person we can be while treating others with dignity and honor. And in the meantime, don't let the foibles of our vocabulary prevent you from respecting the beliefs of others as long as they respect and honor yours.