Eagle columnist shares spiritual journey
by Jennifer Cohron
Dec 03, 2012 | 1861 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In search of the Spirit
In search of the Spirit
Dale Short has grappled with religion for most of his life. Two byproducts of that struggle are a new book, “In Search of the Spirit,” and an exhibit at Camp McDowell of several photos from his “Holy Church of...” series.

“In Search of the Spirit,” which is available as both an e-book and in paperback, is a compilation of columns detailing events that took place between 2000 and 2004.

The book opens with Short’s encounter with a faith-healer in Charlotte, N.C. and ends with him confronting the question of evil in a prison cell.

The response to Short’s musings was sharply divided when the series of columns was first published in “Birmingham Weekly” in 2005.

The feedback that he has received since the e-book became available several months ago has been equally honest.

“I get letters like ‘I’ve been wondering about this stuff for years,’ and ‘You make me feel like I’m not crazy.’ One friend wrote back and said, ‘This is both deep and wide. It has made me look into my soul, and it’s a scary picture,’” Short said.

Short was raised in a rural church that he describes in the book as a “hellfire-and-brimstone congregation.” He admits to being haunted by scenes depicted in Revelation for years.

Short also recalls being deeply troubled by the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing as well as “the assumption that Jesus and hate-mongers like Bull Connor were playing for the same team.”

Short left the church as soon as he was of age.

At some point between college and his 40s, he was drawn back into the search for spirituality by books such as Gary Zukav’s “The Dancing Wu Li Masters.”

Short, a lifelong lover of science, was fascinated by Zukav’s discussion of how the terminology of physics and Eastern religions are now so close as to be almost inseparable.

“I thought, ‘Wow. This is a lot bigger than Shanghi Church. What if the science that I have been in love with for so many years is a really spiritual thing if being spiritual means finding out how the world works and how to be the best person?” Short said.

Today, Short follows the teachings of Jesus and also admires the ethical precepts of Buddhism.

Although he still does not attend church, he has learned to look for the holy in everyday moments. He has captured several such moments on film as part of the “Holy Church of...” series

Just as Short walked away from religion, he also gave up photography after years of making a living at it. He became so bitter that he refused to even take a camera on vacation.

Then came the birth of the digital camera and more importantly, a granddaughter.

Not long after he found himself falling in love with photography again, he experienced one of the bipolar collapses that plague him every eight to nine years like clockwork.

One morning, he woke up unable to think clearly. In an effort to focus his mind, Short walked outside looking for things to photograph.

The shot he took was a reflection of Sixth Avenue Church of Christ in a puddle of water. When he enlarged the photo later, he noticed something that he had not before — a small figure swimming toward the sunlight behind the church.

“I thought, ‘This is a dead leaf, but it’s in exactly the shape of a guy swimming toward the light.’ I knew it was just coincidence, but what I was doing after coming back like Lazarus from that illness was swimming toward the light,” Short said.

Short began looking for other objects that looked holy in the right kind of light. He found it in mud puddles, an American flag, even a lizard.

A selection of photos from the “Holy Church of...” series is on display at Camp McDowell’s St. Francis Chapel now through the end of December.

The Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell recently received a grant from the Walker Area Community Foundation to hold a series of month-long exhibits featuring local artists.

Short will also be participating in the Jasper Public Library’s book signing for local authors Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.