Thursday, August 21, 2014

Love Has No Borders

When I first got my drivers license, I was probably 16 or so, I was prepared. I had been working for a number of years at odd jobs washing floors, a paper route, carrying groceries to people’s homes,  that I had saved up enough money for a used car. The car I purchased was a Dodge Rambler.  I was assured that although it was old, it would run.  And on a cold snowy winter evening in the Bronx, I talked my friends into letting me drive them in my new car.  Well no sooner had we gone about 20 miles driving my car broke down on a remote stretch of road in an area we were not too familiar with. Now you have to remember this is before cell phones.
          One of my friends looked at me and said, “What do we do now?” We popped the hood, and a couple of them pretended to twist a few knobs, and check the wiring but I knew their vain attempt to impress each other with mechanical machoniss would amount to nothing.  Again the refrain, What do we do now.  One of my friends insisted we wait stating eventually the police would drive by and help us.  My thought immediately turned to the fact that when the car died, so did the heat, and the fact that we left the doors open while we playing under the hood, led me to believe that if we waited too long we would freeze to death.  Again the refrain, What do we do now?  And so I suggested we get out and walk until we found a pay phone or someone’s house that didn’t look too creepy.  (I am not sure how we defined this) My friends expressed numerous concerns about freezing to death while looking for a phone, how far is it, we could get lost, there could be a wild pack of werewolves that could kill us.  (Its always something) And I said, I would rather die doing something to save us rather than die sitting around waiting for someone else to come save us.  
Sometimes there are events in our country that make me stop and ask What do we do now?  Recently there have been a few events in our nation that make me stop and take stock about what our values as a country and humanity as a whole are. One such event I saw a scene on television of white adults and their children screaming, screaming in anger at a bus of refugee children telling them to go home. It reminded me of the 1960s picture of white Americans screaming at African American Children protesting desegregation. (Show pictures) When we look back on those pictures in the 1960s, I often have wondered what those people think about themselves now. Whether they have changed. And wonder if within that question, there might be a clue as to what will cause us to change in 50 years.  One such person was Hazel Bryan Massery who is seen here shouting at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the first 9 students to integrate the Little Rock High School in Arkansas.   Massery after a few years, did some discernment stating her hatred came from comments she heard from her parents not based on the situation itself.  She felt remorse, and contacted Eckford to apologize for her actions. In her life Massery worked with young black mothers-to-be and minority students, in part to make amends for her past actions, 
She appeared in speeches with Eckford and even on the Oprah Winfrey show with the students commemorating the 40th anniversary of the integration of the High School.  But eventually Eckford and Massery had a falling out. Eckford said,
"she wanted me to be cured and be over it and for this not to go on... She wanted me to be less uncomfortable so that she wouldn't feel responsible anymore."  
We always own our actions and our inactions and we are always responsible for the consequences that follow. Our responsibilities do not end.  
Our actions or inactions while we are alive will affect not only us, but our descendants generation upon generation still to come, just as we are still responsible for the actions made by European settlers in how they dealt with the indigenous people of this country. Just as we are still responsible for the consequences of this country making the decision to enslave people of color and then allow Jim Crow laws to proliferate.  Just as we are still responsible for the consequences of our governments decisions to overthrow governments and supporting brutal dictatorships in Central America to support American Business interests.  Only by looking at the larger picture and learning from and understanding those who are struggling can we come to grips with our past and present.
I saw this very interesting science fiction movie “The Giver” this weekend. A good movie (I give it 6 out of 10 stars).  I think there was a really poignant point that it made. All of the members of society had no memory of the past at all and due at least in part to that, it left them emotionless. The protagonist’s goal was to get past a certain barrier which would release all the memories.  Please don’t ask me for scientific details about how that is even possible, it is science fiction, so accept and think metaphorically.  
We do have to cross a certain barrier to experience emotions and empathy for others.   So what are the barriers that hold us back. The barrier that tells us we are separate from other human beings. Some line on a map….or in our head. The barrier that tells us difference is less than.  The barrier that tells us that we are inherently better than other human beings. The barrier that tells us to fear other human beings and difference.  Only when we break through those barriers and are willing to see every other person as just as worthy, only then can we begin to understand their pain, their joy, their suffering, their hopes,
Only when we break through our barriers and see ourselves as part of the larger world, can we truly see ourselves, our pain, our joy, our suffering, our hopes, only when we break through our barriers, can we begin to stand on the side of love and truly be one with others. Standing on the side of love.  Many of us have heard that phrase, we have sung the song, (and we will later, but what exactly does it mean?
(Show Video)
Standing on the side of love. It’s a catchy slogan.  I am on the side of caring for others who are struggling. These children on the border often do not have anyone to help them. In this case, unlike the larger immigration question, these children are coming here from countries that are filled with violence and poverty. They are not coming here looking for work, they are coming here looking to survive.  Can you imagine how bad it must be for a family to allow their child to travel alone. Can you imagine how bad it must be for a child to leave their family?  These children being forced to flee are the consequence of many actions by many people, including leaders in their own countries, and as I indicated before, whether with the good or bad intentions, many of the problems in these Central American countries have been exacerbated by actions our country has taken over the centuries. But whatever the reason, these children are here.
I have had many people say to me Jay, but we have so many problems here already, we have so many at risk children already right here in this town, so many children here dealing with poverty and violence. Why would we take on more children?  I think that is a fair question. I do, but it is also a damning question. It states we know we don’t care for our own children as we should.  It doesn’t have to be an either or. We have to ask ourselves, What are our values? And particularly what are our values around caring for children?  Are our values compassion or cruelty? Are our values inclusion or exclusion? Are our values love or hate?  My religious values call us to help these children. Just as America sent countless Jewish children to their death during World War II by not accepting them into our country, so too would we be condemning these children to death if we do not accept them.
What do we do now?  At a minimum we should follow the 14th amendment to the American Constitution which states with precision:
“nor shall any State deprive any person…(it doesn’t say citizen it says person) deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person equal protection of the laws.”
Children are people. This is the minimum that many would abandon.  We must end deportations  now. If we value children, we should do everything in our power to keep families together by no longer deporting non citizen parents of citizen children.
If we value children we will make sure the dream act is finalized by our Government.  And finally if we are to live out our values,  values of hospitality, values of compassion, the value of loving our neighbor.  values of standing up for the most vulnerable in our midst,   We must take responsibility for these children.   We must not abandon them. They are our children. They are all our children. 
President Kennedy foresaw all of this in 1961 when proposing the Alliance for Progress, a program to help strengthen the lives of Central Americans he said:
“we propose to complete the revolution of the Americas, to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a suitable standard of living and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom. To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress...Let us once again transform the American Continent into a vast crucible of revolutionary ideas and efforts, a tribute to the power of the creative energies of free men and women, an example to all the world that liberty and progress walk hand in hand.
Let us once again awaken our American revolution until it guides the struggles of people everywhere-not with an imperialism of force or fear but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of humanity”
Good intentioned, but ultimately flawed, with a lack of any reform, particularly land reform, limited resources and focus due to the war in Vietnam, and monies diverted to American business interests, this dream never came true. 
The ironic thing of course is, if we truly had worked in partnership and implemented the Alliance for Progress with Central American Countries, we probably would not have these unaccompanied children in the United States. But that was then, What do we do now. We have to do something to save the soul of our country.  The first thing you can do is to join me today in downtown davenport this afternoon at 3 oclock at the irish immigrant statue and show your support for these children at an interfaith rally entitled love without borders.  Secondly you can join our Social Justice Team’s Immigration project so we can combine our efforts as a Congregation with Quad Cities Interfaith for effective change  

Unitarian Universalism asks us to do something rather than just sit by waiting hoping for something to save us.  Unitarian Universalism rather asks us to save each other. Unitarian Universalism asks us to ask the hard questions about the reality in which live, and that by asking the hard questions, we not only come to know ourselves better but we come to know others on a deeper level. Exploring our lives and learning about the lives of others at a deeper level can provide hope, a hope that one day all beings will find a way to walk this journey of life in peace without fear,  Let us break through our self imposed barriers, for love has no borders.  I stand with love wherever I find those who are suffering, I  stand with love wherever I find oppression, I stand with love wherever I find injustice. I ask you to stand with me and I will stand with you and we will shoulder the responsibilities together.  Please stand with love, live with love in your heart, and act with love in all that do. Nothing less than the future of humanity is it at stake. May it be so. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sports and Religion

Sports has been a large part of my life.  Both playing and watching and analyzing them.  It has taught me many life lessons both good and bad, it has been part of family rituals, it has allowed me to examine myself, my own emotional strength, my physical and mental abilities and limitations, and how to adapt within different circumstances and environments.  All of those descriptors sounds very much like I could be talking about the purpose of religion.  Growing up, in my family, Football was very much like religion.  My family had season tickets to the New York Jets in Shea Stadium, in Queens New York.
Each week we had our rituals.  We would dress in certain ways when we went to games, we would chant repetitive chants throughout the games and clap hands together, not necessarily in beat, all similar to religious activity.   There is always singing at sporting events just as there is in religious services.  They almost all have a communal singing of the National Anthem, of which my entering words were drawn from today.  I always say, I loved to go to sporting events and church, because it was the only two public places I could sing and no one would tell me to shut up. I am going to try to make it to our Music Team’s singing 101 program led by Saul in September. I invite all of your attend even if you think you have a terrible voice like I do.  
Anyway, after each football game that we attended we also had ritual foods that we would eat. I know we normally don’t think of Chinese take out as ritual food, but in this case it was.   One year probably at the age of 10 or so, I did try to institute a revolt demanding a democratic vote on what food to eat trying to institute pizza as a new ritual.  They thought I was such a  cute little radical.  But football Sunday demanded the ritual foods of spareribs and dumplings and egg rolls.  And when the Super Bowl came around, we had more family members attend our Super Bowl Gathering than any religious holiday throughout the year.  And like certain religious holidays, everyone cooked very special recipes just for that day.  
Now I have grown, like my religion I have chosen more diverse offerings to the Gods, whether they be food or the search for truth and meaning. Speaking of which, we certainly know a lot of praying goes on at sporting events.  Football and sports spectatorship in general leads to a commitment to a team.  It really is a commitment to an abstract relationship, a commitment to gaining serious knowledge of the subject,  a commitment to something larger than yourself, a commitment to something you can not control, and it is a commitment that is defended, contextualized, and even evangelized about.  It becomes a tribal thing, a bonding, a connection that even more than religion crosses all demographics of humanity.
We should have just a serious commitment to our religion.  Sports with that commonality of connection, can even in its seeming frivolity  be very real for some people and be a bridge to healing and communication. I think this was epitomized by a scene in the movie city slickers.  (show video)
Of course being able to have a real conversation about the things that we struggle with are ideal, but it is better to have some conversation, some relationship surrounding some shared purpose,  than no relationship at all. And as we gain comfort in a relationship there are opportunities for deepening relationships. 
Sports often highlights the suffering that we experience in this world, when we fall, when we fail, when we strive to no avail. I know the opening hymn we sang (Nobody knows the trouble Ive seen)  probably seemed very strange given the topic. Now I do not want it to seem that I am minimizing the origins of this song, in the African American tradition and their struggle to overcome slavery and oppression.  But I do see a parallel that sports shows us that despite ongoing suffering people still have hope.  Just ask any Chicago Cubs fan.  When the New York Jets went to the Super Bowl (The championship game for the sport of football) in 1969, as season ticket holders my parents were eligible to get tickets.  They said no, we’ll go next year.  I’ve been waiting a long time for next year. It is a reminder to live in the present moment, not to dwell on past successes and failures, or a hoped for future, but to live and experience the world in which we live now. 
Of course  Sports is more than just football.  Just as we are a pluralistic religion, Sports through television showed us there was such of variety of sports options in the world.   I imagine only our older members will remember this:  (video of Wide World of Sports)
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  Sounds a bit like joys and sorrows.  In sports like in life, we work towards some end.  And often our outcomes do not come out as planned.
 In many ways sports becomes a cathartic activity to mirror the world within which we live, and allows us to express the raw emotions that are not acceptable by society at large. 
I particularly liked the phrase in the video, “the human drama of athletic competition.  I have always considered sports to be a live action unscripted drama, as good as any action drama film. Rabbi Sherwin Wine’s in his Book Staying Sane in a Crazy World goes so far as to view sporting events as an art form.   HE states”
“The most successful art forms of contemporary culture are sports events.  In the graceful ‘dances’ of baseball, football, basketball and hockey—in the vital energy of tennis, golf, swimming and running heroes of risk and defiance display the beauty of their skills.   Each contest is a testimony to human ingenuity and talent.   A fast-moving basketball game, with its miracle passes, and its mind-boggling bursts and turns, is a much more exciting ballet than standing on your toes.  The ancient Greeks saw the connection between beauty and athletics.   So does the contemporary world, even though it may not be able to articulate this vision….Eager fans stomp and cheer for feats of glory which they themselves cannot perform but which suggest the possibility of the human potential. 
Sports is the supreme art form of the modern world.  Nothing else celebrates the beauty of the human form more triumphantly.   Sporting events are not merely cathartic substitutes.  They are celebrations of beauty and feed the human spirit with the hope of human resistance.  Much more than religion they alleviate the craziness of a crazy world.”  
Too often though, people distract themselves with sports.  Just like any art form, we can take from it something meaningful, and bring it back into our day to day life OR similarly to what Marx said about religion, sports can become the opiate of the masses. 
The question is what do we bring back from sports that informs our day to day living. A sporting event can be as simple as a metaphor for life.  It has a beginning, it has an end, but it is not the final score that counts, it is what happens during the game that counts.  Do we practice and train for what life brings us, do we work hard to reach our goals, do we give life all we have. When the going gets tough, do we quit, or do we persevere.  If the outcome seems certain, do we quit and stop playing hard or do we maintain our integrity and continue to give 100% knowing there is no shame in losing if we have done our best. 
When I played basketball in the schoolyard as a child, I was one of the worst players on the court.  I played hard just not to embarrass myself.  I gave it everything I had. I practiced week in and week out.  And a funny thing happened. No I was still the worst player at the schoolyard.  But when I played my first intramural game at a local gym, I realized that although still not great,  the competition I had been playing against at the schoolyard was phenomenal.  There were people at the schoolyard who went on to play college basketball.   And in comparison at the intramural league, I realized I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. 
It was similar to when I first received a computer chess game.  After losing against the master level I learned to lower the skill level of the computer until I gained more skills. Always challenging myself but never feeling defeated.  That is another lesson learned.  We can always, always continue to increase our skills.  I was never going to be a pro basketball player, but I have found the lessons of practice,  perseverance, constant improvement, and awareness of our strengths and limitations  is critical to improving our happiness in life.  The goal is to learn what our strengths are and to strengthen them.  In basketball I knew I was never going to be a great scorer considering everyone was much taller and stronger than I was.  But I could out dribble, out pass and out hustle everyone else. So I focused on that and made myself valuable to my team in that way. I learned we each have a part to play in any team or organization.   I learned not to compare myself to others, whether it is in sports, business, relationships, or ministry. As long as we give our best all the time, that is all we can ask of ourselves.  But self awareness of ourselves is critical.   Can we be aware in a neutral world. I thought this next clip from the movie Parental Guidance asked this question bluntly. 
(show video)
I am not here to say one way or the other at what age if any sports should be competitive.  However the goal of our life should be to allow humanity and thereby humans to reach their full potential.  This simple clip to me asks the question as to whether we can truly know what joy is if we do not understand sorrow.  Can we know what victory is, if we haven’t tasted defeat.  Can we truly know how to live, if we haven’t accepted and embraced the certain eventuality of death. We will not reach our full potential unless we are pushed to. Now there are some in the world who are self starters, know exactly what they want and how to get it. I am truly in awe of those people.  Most of us muddle along and make mistakes and keep trying to figure it out. 
That is why I think so many of us ended up as Unitarian Universalists.  We kept trying, and we keep trying to figure out how to make meaning in our lives in this world. We found others rigid answers non satisfying and we keep looking. But sometimes, as I talked about last week, we tire of the search and sit back into the cool calming comfort of attachment, and we ease into a status quo not wanting anything to upset it.  But we know, just from watching sporting events like the team that has a lead and plays a prevent defense, (for you non football people, that is when you try to prevent a big gains by allowing small gains. And it rarely works)  Like playing a prevent defense, in life, if you just try to coast, you will be overtaken by the ever changing circumstances of life. 
We must be intentional in all our actions and self aware of what our role on the team is.  We only have this one moment in time.  Right now, the present moment.  We know what we have to do if we want to reach our vision and mission. It is all there in the pyramid. I ask you to look at those items and think about if we are living up to them.  Do we have loyalty, cooperation and team spirit within our Congregation and with our fellow members?  Do we show enthusiasm and determination to achieve our mission and vision? Are we acting with poise and self control in all our interactions.  
Are we giving our personal best in all that we do here?  In deepening our relationships, in growing our spiritual and religious life, in welcoming the newcomer, in devoting ourselves to community good, in caring for the earth and caring for each other.  This is what we should be spending our energies on.  Everything else is a distraction to what we hope to achieve here.  We can choose to come together or not.  That is the beauty of this religion.  You get to choose.  I hope you choose excellence in all we do I hope you choose to make this Congregation and the larger community better place to live in.  May it be so.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

After the Ectasy, The Laundry

Having grown up in the Bronx in New York City I was only a train ride away from Manhattan and some of the greatest art museums in the world.  I was very fortunate as well in that parents would take me into Manhattan to enculturate me to a different world than which we lived.  I take it for granted now, however many of my friends who I grew up with never took that train ride from the Bronx to Manhattan.  Just a few miles away but it might as well have been on the other side of the world.  I think that is true of much in our lives in many different ways.  The change we need, whether physical, spiritual or mental, are so close that we just need to take a short journey,
but for some reason we either don’t recognize how close it is or we are in fear that even that short journey will upset our way of being that we have defended for so long, fear that the idea that is the foundation of our belief system could be wrong, fear that the wall that keeps chaos at bay will be breached, fear that we will be thrust into situations that make us uncomfortable. 
And generally people like comfort, Now comfort is not a bad thing.  I think many people are striving for comfort in their lives.  And there is a time and place for comfort.  But if comfort is our only goal, we become insulated, insulated to the outside world, insulated from new ideas, insulated from reaching our full potential as human beings. Sometimes we need to be made uncomfortable to help us grow.
            To me that is also one of the benefits of Art.  It forces us to stretch our mind and spirit.  It allows us to see the world in a different way, it moves and transforms us so that we will never look at the world in quite the same way.   Now growing up my parents would bring me down to the Guggenheim, (Picture - Kandinsky) Kadinsky compares the spiritual life to a pyramid (Remember this for later) He states “The artist has a mission to lead others to the pinnacle with their work.” Metropolitan Museum of Art (a Van Gogh ,) the Museum of Modern Art, (Picture – Calder talk about different forms) to name just a few.  I went to many Broadway Musicals, and I was dragged to off-off Broadway theatre. Some very avant garde stuff.  Avant Garde is a term that is broadly used to describe art that pushes the boundaries, ignores the existing structures of the status quo creating something totally different and innovative for its time.  In one show I attended people just started throwing bottles and smashing them against the wall. It was jarring.  And that was its purpose.  To get people out of their comfort zone and to perceive their experiences differently. 
            When I was younger I really didn’t get much of it. I once asked my parents if they were really trying to share with me the culture of the city or were the tickets just cheaper than the cost of a baby sitter.  Now Avant-Garde never really becomes popular, by its nature, once it is popular with the masses it is no longer Avant-Garde. But it does have its time and place.  But if all we ever did was experience Avant Garde work, we would never have time to reflect and discern why we are changing, and never have time to actually develop what it is we are changing.  Taking the time to create a new foundation to build upon, that allows us to grow,  until we recognize the need to adapt and change again. 
Humanity has this combined need for both certainty and uncertainty. Something new and something old, Something stable and something innovative.  And if we don’t recognize the changes around us in the world we will stagnate.  Now when I first graduated college some time ago, there was no such thing as a personal computer. I know it is hard to believe, but when they were first introduced, people really resisted them. People said, no great work of writing could ever be done on a computer.  I thought the people who used quill and ink probably said the same thing. If we don’t adapt we die.  (Asked how many people remember Lotus 123)
Some could argue for a simpler life. We can retreat from the world around us.  Choose not to interact with others. And there is a need for that at times. But by gathering together, we are saying we choose to live in this world. By gathering together as Unitarian Universalists we say what we say and what we do matters and we can impact the world we live in.  And by so doing we impact and transform our own lives.  We often have this vision of an artist working alone tormented by their demons.  But I want to put forth to you today a different vision.  Collaborative Creativity Collaborative creativity is something that allows us to be greater than the sum of all our parts.  Think of a choir.   The choir brings together solo voices into harmonies that could not be created by any of those individuals (at least without computers). 
I read a recent article in the Atlantic about John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles. (Powerpoint)  In the article it states Paul was meticulous and John lived in Chaos, Paul was a diplomat, John an agitator, Paul was willing to put in long hours to get it right and John was inpatient and always wanted to move on to something new. But they knew they needed each other. And together they made better music than they ever did or could have separately. The article points out that even in between albums when they oftimes would go their separate ways, they were influenced by  different artists, styles and circumstances. And when they came back together, their overall richness of experiences were expanded.   They synthesized their differences, not in compromise, but in a way that created something better than the whole.  Something Buddhists would call the Middle Way.
Let me give you a visual of this. (Picture on Powerpoint) When people have differing opinion, styles, visions, it starts like this.   Often when we think of compromise, we think of each side giving up something. No one is truly happy, something is sacrificed by all, but we move forward together peacefully.  But finding the Middle way is like reaching the top of the triangle. (remember Kadinsky). The recognition of and the benefits of both talents merged and synthesized so that we all reach a better solution and a higher plane than we currently are on.
Out of chaos creation happens. Chaos is part of creation. By itself though nothing will be formed from chaos, but chaos combined with structure leads to the creation of something beautiful and something that can be lasting, something that allows us to transcend ourselves and transcend even our lifetime.  It is not easy, but when we find that point, we are in ecstasy, the ying and yang are balanced, and we are one with all that is.

PART II

The title of this sermon “After the Ectasy, the Laundry” is the title of a book by American Buddhist Jack Kornfield.  Its been a long time since I read the book, I vaguely remember it, but the title just hit the nail on the head for me.  I have maintained over the years a Meditation practice. Like many who meditate there are often times my mind just wanders, but there are some times, when everything is just right, and I am completely in the present moment. When those precious moments happen, I do feel one with the universe. And then I start thinking about how great that feeling is, which is what of course causes me to lose that feeling.  
The purpose and benefit of meditation for me is not the practice itself.  It is aptly named a practice because that is what it is. It is practice for actual living. It is a practice for the everyday moments in world, amidst both the chaos and the boredom (and I recognize for some boredom is chaos). But amidst everything it helps me remain in the present moment. Not worrying about how I could have worded something differently at some meeting so as to not to accidently insult someone (it happens now and then).  Not dreaming about what I could be doing later after I finish cleaning the dishes.  I would say the laundry to tie into the title, but in my house the dishes, garbage and the dog are my equitable distribution of chores. But those thoughts of the past or future only lead to the feelings of regret and longing.  Now the goal of this is not to eliminate reflectiveness on the past or planning for the future, but rather to make sure we see ourselves and our circumstances clearly. 
By seeing clearly and acting boldly we can make our lives, every day, in every act a work of creative art.  It is easier to see our lives that way if we look at it over a longer period of time. The older we get we can see the arc of our lives and see the key decision we made that led us to where we are. We can see how we have changed year in and year out. Hopefully that makes us wiser. 
Each day the decisions we make are part of our own individual creation story and part of the larger creation story.  Imagine if we looked at our life as a work of art.  What would you want to create?  I think that is a great question to ask ourselves periodically.  I do that every year.
Having just come back from study leave, I can tell you one of the things I do is to think about what new programs will be meaningful to the Congregation and the Community, and how to support others in developing existing programs.  As well for myself I plan what spiritual and educational retreats I want to attend in the upcoming year.  Its important to plan.  Even Abstract painters who abhor structure often have a vision of what their work represents. In fact within our lives we can be both abstract and fine artists of our life. We often think of James Whistler we think of Whistlers Mother. (Show Picture Whistlers Mother)  But he also painted in the abstract. (Show picture Nocturne) Nocturne, now considered a masterpiece, at the time it was very controversial for it abstract nature.  We do not have to be just one thing. Our lives can include a multitude of parts.  The key to the art of life is to pursue things that capture your passion. It doesn’t mean you have to make a career out of it. You can, but you don’t have to. When you are pursueing the things you are passionate about it is as if time stands still.  And if things don’t seem to work out, if the passion is there, if it still calls to you, you should follow it.
Claude Monet in giving advice to painters said “not to fear mistakes. The discipline of art (and I would say the discipline of life) requires constant experimentation, wherein errors are harbingers of original ideas because they introduce new directions for expression. The mistake is outside the intended course of action, and it may present something that we never saw before, something unexpected and contradictory, something that may be put to use.”   So the key is not to live a life of fear, or regret or perceived limitations. While on study leave, I went to a writing workshop at the University of Iowa, which as many of you know has the reputation of being one of the best schools for writing in the country.  I have to tell you it was daunting.  I was in a class with some really good, even some published writers.  But I went anyway.  And I was in awe of the talent of these people.  But others talents do not diminish me as long as I am being authentic, with integrity, doing my best. By being around people who are more talented, we can learn. By collaborating with others we can gain confidence of our own voice and find the Middle Way.  And it doesn’t matter how old or young you are. There were people 30 years older and 30 years younger than me in that class, all talented, all questioning, all learning from each other, all with different life experiences all making a work of art out of their life.  
Sometimes life’s forces blind us to our vision for ourselves.  But I am here to remind you to take the time to do the inner work, And that inner work should help you determine what your outer acts should be. You are capable of taking action today, right now (well right after service). Just do one little thing today that will put you on the path to where you want to head.   As Shakespeare wrote “Once more into the breach dear friends, once more”  And I want you to know it doesn’t have to be grandiose. Just like in the video we saw earlier, it can be a simple thing of helping another human being. The ultimate question you need to ask yourself is How do you want to live your life? To paraphrase a line from the book “Art and Fear”
“You have a choice between giving your  work (Life) your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy.  It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty.  And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice”  
And so it is within Unitarian Universalism, where we create a container, a safe space to explore the uncertainties in life, a safe place to be uncomfortable.  Let us work on our lives and our Congregation day in and day out in the present moment. Let us be our best selves. Let us do so creatively and collaboratively with clear eyes and a full heart. May it be so.