Between Us, 3/10/2024

At the end of every OSU term I mark out ten to twelve hours on my schedule to have short one-to-one meetings with all the students in my class on World Religions. There are usually around 45 students, so it takes a while. I have learned that it is one of the most worthwhile things I do. I have a chance to hear from each student whether or not, in getting an overview of nine different traditions, they have learned anything useful (or surprising or helpful). This is my week for interviews, and once again, I am full of gratitude and awe. Students who never say anything in class become incredibly articulate. They describe how their perspectives have opened, how their horizons have widened, how what they thought was simply true is much more complicated and nuanced than they could have imagined. They appreciate knowing more than hearsay about Judaism and Islam, they are intrigued by the possibilities of Buddhist and Daoist practice. They recognize that even if they don’t consider themselves religious, nevertheless they too are in the process of trying to understand what it means to be human is, and how to live a good life.

I sometimes say that I continue to teach this class as my small contribution to world peace. And maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s also true that I’m still trying to understand what it means to be human and how to live a good live.

The Fellowship, and Unitarian Universalism, mean a lot of things to a lot of people. It isn’t always easy to describe what we do, because so much is done by so many, and because as the world changes we also change. At the very least, however, from my perspective, we are people who gather together as companions on the journey of life, trying to understand and do our best to be human through ups and downs, love and loss, fear and joy. We choose this specific liberal religious path, and this particular congregation for the freedom to ask our own questions and to share both questions and answers with others. We also choose this place because we understand that we can promise one another to take care of ourselves and of each other.

Being a Unitarian Universalist can look easy, as in “nothing is required.” But that is not quite right. Much is asked of us, including being responsible to and for each other, to and for the congregation, and to and for the world. All are welcome to come in and consider this path, yet it is so much more than a spectator sport (as I’ve said many times before). The religious life — this religious life as a Unitarian Universalist — is a life based on commitment. There is too much at stake in our lives and in the world for anything less.