Exploring UofT’s Spirituality Café

The more time I spend searching for interesting clubs and events at UofT, specifically through the Multi-Faith Centre, the more unique opportunities I find to learn new information and ways of thinking from other people. The Spirituality Café was an especially fascinating experience. Every Thursday between 4:10pm - 5:30pm, the group meets in Hart House’s Bickersteth room to discuss and share philosophic and religious concepts.

This week’s session was the first I was able to attend. The group was small and engaging, and it was clear from the beginning that the Spirituality Café was designed for inclusivity, respectful dialogue, and open-minded engagement. Group members, regardless of what faith community they did or did not belong to, were interested in exploring greater questions about life. For example, some topics centred around what it means to act in blind faith, and what real faith looks like internally and externally.

The topic for last week was “Faith”. Many philosophers, writers, and theologians were quoted on a piece of paper, the group took turns reading the passages which pertained to the week’s theme. We were then asked to elaborate on why certain quotes stood out to us and what our initial opinions of them were. One reading that caught my attention was by Leo Tolstoy, who wrote that, “Faith is the strength of life… Without faith he cannot live”. It forced me to consider whether Faith (especially in a Divine power) is as prominent in society today as it has been in the past, if so, how has this societal shift affected how human beings choose to live their lives today. It also reminded me of absurdism philosophy, which argues that life is essentially meaningless, but perhaps the best thing one can do is to continue living and enjoying life anyway.

The group is incredibly refreshing, specifically outside of a classroom setting — where you’re expected to read a text for the purpose of being judged, and are graded on your thoughts and their intellectual merit. I really enjoyed the environment because the space was designed purely for learning and growing alongside others. I was able to understand how my peers see and relate to the world around them, in whatever faith-based context that might be. The group members bounced questions and ideas off of each other, many of which were incredibly heavy, but also very enlightening. One discussion was based on questioning whether human beings can model themselves in the image of God, if we cannot even imagine or conceive of what God might be. The only conclusion I can recall is that actions speak louder than words, and that to act with kindness and compassion is infinitely better than self-proclaimed righteousness.

Overall, the group is incredibly warm and inviting. Event facilitators, Anthony Naimi and Michael Sabet were immensely engaging and genuinely cared about hearing what the group had to say. Often, I find it difficult to dive into intense and personal topics with strangers regarding religion and philosophy, because I fear that I might seem over-bearing. Yet, these intimate questions ultimately connect us human beings. It allows us to see the common humanity among us and to find wonder in the ways we are different from each other. The Spirituality Café definitely supports this line of thinking. If interested, come join! No registration is required and you’ll definitely leave with more questions than answers.

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