Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some musings from theology class

What do we most trust?

This is a multi-faceted question. The first thing I have to do is to step back and check myself, and remember it is not what I trust, but what UU has to offer in response the question. And yet, I do not think we can help but interject our own context into this (these) questions. Having said that, I think we as Unitarian Universalists trust our experiences. The struggle with this concept is that individuals experiences can be limited. Therefore part of what we have to offer (and I am already thinking how this will weave into the last unit question) is the ability to expand individuals and our community’s intellectual, spiritual, and justice seeking experiences.

Who are we?

This is a tougher one. Who we want to be may not necessarily be who we are. And I think that is part of our strength and weakness. We are willing to look consciously at ourselves in our current context and are willing to change who we are. Yet constant change makes it difficult to define who we to those unfamiliar with our religion. Often people look towards religion to be a stable guiding force in their lives. We should realize and accept that our willingness to challenge our own and society’s status quo is an inhibitor to many people. We have to accept that we cannot be all things to all people, but we can and must be respectful and realize that different people in our congregations are at different places on their religious journey. I am proud that we are a religion which is willing to engage the wonders, ambiguities, and horrors that comprise life. We are a religion which is willing to examine with reason and creativity all that is existence. We are a religion that is willing to confront life with an open heart and an open mind. We are a religion who care for and nurtures all creation. We are a religion which seeks justice for all and not just for some and we see this as part of our spiritual and religious life. (OK, I see a good sermon forming here).

What will get us through the night?

My friend used to tell me there are no atheists in foxholes and hospital beds. In truth, most people don’t deal with the ultimate questions of life until they are faced with such stark life and death situations. UUs constantly engage life and how we live our lives. We engage those ultimate questions about the meaning of life, not with easy platitudes of some otherworldly paradise, but with a serious examination in the present moment. Easy platitudes fall by the wayside in times of crises, because deep down I think people know there is more, and then it is too late, and they know there is no magical redemption for a life poorly lived. A life well lived with principle and integrity gets us through the day. Yet “in the dark night of the soul” the only hope we have is relationships. Relationships we have built over time, through shared experiences, shared joys and tragedies. Knowing that there are people who care, and specifically care about you. Recently I was rushed to the emergency room (it ended up being vertigo, but I didn’t know that at the time), and I have to admit my first thought went to some foreign otherworldly being to help me, and then I saw my wife, and I just asked her to hold me. My personal experience, and my experience in CPE is that in our moment of need, we just need somebody to hold us, to be with us so we know we are not alone.

What holds us together in religious community?
This to me is the easiest of the questions. It is something that Dr. Parker’s article spoke of quite eloquently. What holds us together is our covenant with each other including how we act with each other. Acceptance of and inclusion of others does not always mean we will agree with everyone else. So it is important to live our first principle which is “the inherent worth and dignity of each person”. I think it is important for missions and covenants to be constantly reviewed and renewed. As our community grows, each new person changes it and is changed by it. Therefore we must always keep that in the forefront and current. Yet this is not enough. Words are just words, and by themselves cannot hold things together. Taking actions together is critical to hold us together and to build relationships. Such actions include fellowship, worship and justice work.

Where are we going?
We are building the beloved community. That is our work, that is our vision. As Martin Luther King said “Although man’s moral pilgrimage may never reach a destination point on earth, his never-ceasing strivings may bring him ever closer to the city of righteousness. And though the Kingdom of God may remain not yet as universal reality in history, in the present it may exist in such isolated forms as in judgment, in personal devotion, and in some group life” [Struggle to Love (Harper & Row, 1961). p. 64]. Thinking about this in light of Rasor’s article, it is interesting to see the foreshadowing of post-modern theology of local actions but still with the hope of in the future as if a beacon from a far away lighthouse, the modernist thought of universal reality. I think humanity has this innate need for the modernist thought of a universal ideal. We define post modernity in terms of people shifting away from a universal. I wonder if our ongoing fragmenting and slide as a society towards consumer and personal narcissism is accelerated by such a post modern theology of life.

As we continue to expand our community we change others and are changed by others. As we experience other cultures we realize that we are interconnected with them. The question will be whether we act on such realization with fear or with love and compassion. With endless hope I believe we are moving towards the latter, but I am not blind to reality of the former. I often think that the path is long and hard (how is that for Protestant work ethic context), but in reality, it doesn’t have to be. I am left thinking though of the hymn WOYAYA and its lyrics

We are going,
Heaven knows were we are going,
But we know within.
And we will get there,
Heaven knows how we will get there,
But we know we will.
It will be hard, we know,
And the road will be muddy and rough,
But we will get there,
Heaven knows how we will get there,
But we know we will.

It speaks to the uncertainty and hope of humanity and our willingness to engage both on our journey of life. I admit freely, I am stuck in the context of my experiences that hard work leads to positive solutions. It is something I will continue to explore (but should I work hard at exploring it J?)

Meanderings Sept 25th - thoughts on 50 and my plant

Thoughts on 50. Its interesting….i didn’t really think about it being that much different from 49 or 51, but everyone else seems to think so. If anything it focuses me more on the importance of the amount of time I have on this earth and how I choose to spend that time. How I choose to act as a human being and how choose to interact with others humans. My former boss took me out to lunch today and as he has for every year for my birthday, bought me the scotch of my choice, price not withstanding….so tonight I dwell on Macallan 18 yr old scotch….

My plant – I have not written about vertigo in awhile. I have learned many things from vertigo. First, if you care for something and focus on it and what it needs, it grows, and if you don’t it will become sick. At one point its petals all died, and I thought I had done something wrong….but within another day they sprouted again…..so it brought up the concept of death and rebirth…..and resilience……but the most moving awareness I gained was one night….I was debating in my mind whether to go out and water the plant….i was tired, and had gotten home late…..but I was thinking of this just as I was pouring water for my dog….and I thought…well how I can I give water to the dog and not the plant….and then the connection was made….my plant is just as much a living thing as my dog and deserves my attention. I intentionally purchased it with the goal to care for it…..how could I consider not taking care of it any more or less than I would my dog.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Mowing the Lawn

One of the many down sides of my sons leaving the house is the redistribution of Household chores. The one I received the pleasure of doing today was mowing the lawn. This is one I happily gave up many years ago to my industrious son Kyle. It had been a month since it was mowed…The grass was very tall. Now I tried for a while to rationalize that even grass is a living thing (it grows) and part of God’s creation, and thus what right do I have to destroy it. In fact shouldn’t I nurture it to its fullness…Then I saw the neighborhood association watchdog driving around and realized that the freedom of a couple of weeds and grass don’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of the homeowners association. So I got out the mower…..

Finally figuring out that I needed to prime it…This is just not intuitive without instructions. And since I had delegated this chore many years ago, I have happily not revisited it until today. Finally figuring that out….I come to realize there is no gas in the mower…..duh….ok so the weeds get a reprieve….for 15 minutes. I am undaunted. I go to the gas station (my car happened to be low on gas as well – I love the synchronicity of it all.) and fill up. Back to the house, I fill up the mower without spilling too much gas on myself…(note to self, do not grill food tonight with these clothes before washing).

Anyway, I finally figured out all the particulars of how the machine worked….and away we went. My god the power in my hands….mowing down, destroying grass that came in my wake. Then I say one little sunflower among the weeds, but it was too late, it had fallen victim to the killing machine known as lawn mower. I am living with the circle of life concept now.

I made my away around the back yard heading to the front yard. The gate door could not open because the dirt had built up around it so high that it could not swing open more than an inch. Good to thwart fat burglars, and keep the dogs in, but bad for use as a fire exit or to get the mower through….This meant I had two choices…..walk the machine around the back to the other fence door, or get a shovel and shovel out the dirt….I decided, since I was communing with nature today, ,I would shovel….so I shoveled the dirt to a point I could open the door…..I worked up a good sweat…in fact I was sweating so much I kept sweating even after I showered off later…..(of course maybe I just didn’t dry myself well).

Anyway, right now..I am thinking that instead of a game Farmville on Facebook, there should be a game called cityville, where you vie for tickets to the US Open, theatre, and Opera. One really good thing about this event is that I don’t feel the need to go the gym today. This was a healthy workout!!