This summer has brought large contrasts in my consciousness. I have been blessed to be able to go to Chicago with my wife Jan, to view various museums and the zoo. I have gone to Arizona for the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly where among other things, I attended a vigil for undocumented workers who are being held in deplorable and I would argue illegal conditions. As of this writing I am preparing to travel up to Wisconsin to visit with an old friend and to attend a Meditation Retreat. There was the shooting death by a father of his three children who were members of one of our Minnesota Congregations. I have had time to read and ponder and plan for the upcoming year. Then the news came out about the Colorado shooting at the movie theatre. These events forced me to travel on another journey, the farthest and most difficult destination of the summer. This journey, filled with obstacles and wrong turns, was the journey inward. The journey was a reminder for me to maintain compassion in the face horror.The Buddha said the first of the four noble truths is, “the recognition of suffering”. These events are a jolt, a reminder to us that there is ongoing suffering in the world. Often the amount of suffering within oneself and in the world can be overwhelming, and we all react differently. Some look the other way. Some distract themselves. Some strike back in anger. Some decide to live in a nihilistic manner trying to cut themselves off completely from the interdependent web of life. Some take action to find ways to alleviate their suffering and the suffering of others.
There is something wrong in our culture that creates the conditions that allows such tragedies as these shootings to occur. We are all trying to deal with the question as to why? I am reminded of the story told by Rev. William Sloane Coffin at the funeral of the death of his son who died in a car accident. One of his parishioners said “Sometimes I just cant understand the will of God” Sloane replied “I'll say you don't…God’s heart was the first to break” All of our hearts are deeply saddened for the people who died and those who loved them.
Let these tragedies be a reminder as to why we come together. We build community. We walk together with each other on this journey of life. It is a journey that is filled with thought provoking conversations, eating, singing, dancing and much joy. But it is also a journey for walking with each other in times of challenge and suffering. It is a journey of opening our hearts and being a presence in each other’s lives. It is a journey to create a culture of love and compassion. So let us take pause for a moment and recognize how our hearts break with the suffering we experience in our lives and in the world. Then let us remember that we are not alone, we have each other. We can make a difference in each other’s lives. And we can make a difference in the lives of other people in our community who are suffering.
I invite you to take that inward journey of self-awareness and then let that journey lead you to make that outward journey of making a difference in the lives of others.
with a grateful heart
Rev. Jay Wolin