‘You are not the center of the universe,’ and more UU conversation

Living with vulnerability

Rebecca Hecking’s forty-seventh birthday brings reflections about mortality.

Mortality is our companion on the human journey, whether we acknowledge it or not. . . Lately, I turn and nod. Mortality smiles gently back at me. We see each other. We are not yet well acquainted, but I expect we will be in due time. She has become a companion, this goddess of the finite. And I’m finding that instead of fearing her, I rather like her. She keeps me grounded. She nudges me in the direction of being mindful. She points to the night sky, to billions of unknowable galaxies stretching back countless eons, and keeps me in my place. (Breath and Water, May 16)

John Beckett writes about loving Nature during tornado season in Texas.

Nature is beautiful and terrible, creative and destructive. We are a part of Nature, but only a part: not the center and not the head. When we learn to see things as they are, we can develop a deep connection with Nature and a love for Nature, even as we mourn the losses caused by Nature. (Under the Ancient Oaks, May 16)

Terri Pahucki affirms the underlying trust that upholds us in the uncertainty of life.

Life whispers—I cannot give you promises that you will not die. I cannot give you promises that you will succeed. I cannot give you promises that there will not be pain. But I do know—yes, I know this rose will open. Get closer, and let your fears burn away by the quiet fire. Get closer, and listen, Life cries—touch me. Touch me and let your soul unfurl its wings.  (Walking the Journey, May 15)

Losing ourselves, gaining ourselves

The Rev. Tom Schade invites Unitarian Universalists to see our “peculiar history” as a path toward increasing universality.

The present generation of Unitarian Universalists are anxious and full of self-doubt. They live in a world where they think that it 5% or 10% growth in our tiny numbers would be astonishing. They think that only those who understand their very peculiar historical path would be willing to join them.

What they don’t realize is that their very peculiar history has been a process of shedding everything that stands in the way of their universality. They now stand naked, shorn of dogma, shedding their ethnicity and class, clothed only in their willingness to be open, to be reverent, to be in solidarity with others, to embrace the limits of their knowledge, to hold to their own self-possession. (The Lively Tradition, May 15)

For the Rev. Dr. David Breeden, the day when marriage equality became the law in Minnesota was “a bad day for creeds,” and a good day for the living, ever-evolving revelation of Thoreau and Emerson.

A bad day for creeds;
a bad day for stares;
a bad day for blind
obedience to blundering

oracles, as Henry put
it long ago. A bad day
for obedience. . . .

A good day to speak
of Henry and Ralph
erasing themselves

into revelation, to
you, on and on, a good
day to write ourselves. (Way of Oneness, May 16)

Walter Clark makes an extended metaphor from the skin-shedding “blue period” of his daughter’s corn snake, whose eyes are clouded and colors muted during the process.

When we think of change, we often think about our “blue period” where we will be itchy and our vision will be clouded. We may think that hibernation is a better option than change, to just sit still and let everything grow around us. We cannot grow without changing in some way, and we are always growing. Like Butterscotch, change can be difficult to adapt to, but without it, our colors will always be a little gray. (Lack of a Clever Title, May 11)

Jessica Ferguson creates a graphic from the words of the Rev. Jim Robinson:  “Being part of a Unitarian Universalist community means being on an adventure of discovery.” (UU Media Collaborative Works, May 14)

graphic Adventure of Discovery

Practicing good manners

The Rev. Lynn Ungar writes about the importance of consent in negotiating boundaries between ourselves and our neighbors.

Civility presumes a) that you understand that you are not the center of the universe, which means that other people have needs and desires that are different than your own and b) that you can find out people’s needs and desires by asking. Really, does that seem so very difficult?

. . . . We human beings are a community. We belong with one another. But we do not belong to one another, and the sooner we start acting like it, the better. (Quest for Meaning, May 15)

Thalassa shares her list of “Interfaith Etiquette” guidelines, including a “netiquette” version geared toward blog posting and commenting.

Disagreement is not a statement of unworthiness of another, or superiority of one’s self. . . . But maybe we need to learn to disagree with one another better. This is where manners come into the picture.  I don’t think that having manners means leaving disagreement behind. In all actuality, I think that part of having manners is being respectfully honest. (Musings of a Kitchen Witch, May 15)

Questioning ‘beloved community’

The Rev. Christine Robinson questions a too-glib use of the term “beloved community.”

This bit of jargon might be best used only with church leaders who can appreciate its history and unpack its meaning. Less committed folks might feel like they are being sucked into something more than they bargain for or, alternatively, may discover that the church actually can’t promise them the level of help and intimacy which is implied by that term, “beloved.” (iMinister, May 12)

June Herold wonders if “beloved community” is aspirational, particularly considering the challenge of living in right relationship.

The way congregants treat each other and ministers, and vice versa, is often way out of line.  The way the UUA and congregations relate to one another at times appears disingenuous, if not in direct conflict. . . . Meanwhile, many congregations can feel like  community centers and not houses of faith tied together by a denominational identity, despite the UUA’s best efforts to bring us all together. (The New UU, May 16)

Snubbed by an usher at a bricks-and-mortar UU congregation, and welcomed by friends in an online worship service, Sean Neil-Barron writes about the differences between the two experiences.

I found God more in a Hangout than in flesh and blood church last week. I found more connection from singing awkwardly in my living room than singing with hundreds of fellow UUs in a historic church. I found more relief from seeing my friends’ faces than listening to a great sermon in a community that seemed to pass me by.

Church is more than community. It’s more than a message. It’s more than a welcome. It’s more than just living out your values together. But when one of these things isn’t there, no matter how good the rest of it is, I know I won’t be staying. (Spark Within, May 12)

Advocacy and celebration

Talking with a stranger on a flight out of Orlando, Diane Daniel reveals that she is partnered with a woman, but stays in the closet about the fact that her wife used to be her husband.

I was digging myself deeper and deeper, all the while telling him how I felt like living an authentic life was important, and the more people could “come out” the better. . . . While I was “coming out,” I was also “staying in.”

. . . . So, who knows, maybe our exchange will help make a closeted lesbian’s life a little better and further the push toward gay marriage. I certainly didn’t help the transgender cause one little bit. Maybe next time? I’ll see how I feel. (She Was the Man of My Dreams, May 16)

The Rev. Meg Riley shares why Minnesota’s marriage equality victory is so sweet for her.

The self-righteous, narrow-minded, divisive thinking that led Republicans to put constitutional bans on same sex marriage into constitutions in 30 prior states—shamelessly hurting families as a Get Out The Vote strategy—backfired spectacularly in Minnesota. . . .

By the end of the Vote No campaign, 27,000 people had talked with people they knew and loved, barely knew, or didn’t know at all about marriage, love, commitment, and what kind of state we want Minnesota to be. Conversations were civil, respectful, dialogues, not name-calling or rejection. (HuffPost Religion, May 15)