Daily Practice: A Weekly Reminder 11/12/2023

In our hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, reading #468, by George Odell, is this: “We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted. We need one another when we are in trouble and afraid. We need one another when we are in despair, in temptation, and need to be recalled to our best selves again. We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose and cannot do it alone. We need one another in the hour of success, when we look for someone to share our triumphs. We need one another in the hour of defeat, when with encouragement we might endure, and stand again. We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey. All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.”

This is a beautiful description of interdependence! If, as we considered last Sunday, we need to acknowledge more fully the facts of our deep and complex biological interdependence, we also need to understand our social interdependence as well. We are, biologically, “wired for connection,” and this need informs and affects how we relate to other people. If we strongly value interdependence, then we also value learning how to live more interdependently. After generations of the veneration of individuality as the highest value, and now recognizing the damage that veneration has caused to the social ties which support us all, it is important begin to take the well-being of the whole community into account as much as the well-being of each individual.

This is the truth at the heart of the South African / Zulu philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am a person through other persons. My humanity is tied to yours. I am because we are.” This week for daily practice, consider listing, reciting, cataloging each day the ways in which your humanity depends on others. (Not just your life, but your humanity). Consider being intentional about practicing interdependence. Re-read the piece by George Odell several times, and see if it helps you in this practice. Then let’s share what we learn.

Between Us (November 2023)

It is a challenge to be present to the world – a challenge to be willing to acknowledge all that feels frightening and dangerous. If some years ago many of us felt successful and safe in the world, and deserving of it, we do not have that luxury now. We know more, we’ve seen more, we’ve learned more about what is true. As Unitarian Universalists, that has long been our aim – to see and learn more truth. This is not an exercise in intellectual posturing, though sometimes we have been mistaken in that direction.

We’re working with the theme, “Building A New Way,” this year – because we must! If it were only climate change we were facing, it would be immoral to not change the ways we live and interact with everything and everyone else. As we all know, there is more.

I’ll admit, the amount of change which is happening, and the amount which is needed, is daunting, and often, I feel discouraged. Here at the Fellowship, it can feel dizzying: folks who’ve been here a long time miss the way (they think) things were and wonder who will carry on when they are too tired to do everything, while folks who are new wonder what is going on, how to find out, what are the requirements, and where is the calendar of events?

I try to remind myself, every day, that this is exactly what change looks and feels like! We are in fact changing, and that is very good news. But it’s unsettling. Of course it is. I want to remind all of you of this as well. We need to be able to step back from our wonders, worries and concerns, and help ourselves and each other recognize that we have set off from whatever shore (and assumptions) we may have stood on, and now we are in the currents, together.

Together is the most important thing. When faced with this kind of unsettledness (which is increased by all the anxiety we piled up during the pandemic) we too often resort to finding others to blame for our frustrations and fears – the elders, the younger, the new ones, the old ones, etc.

For these times we need as much openness as possible, as much willingness to learn as possible, as much loving-kindness as possible. We need folks who are willing and able to listen and lead and guide for the good of all. We need to help one another live into our covenant of right relations. The future is unfolding between us – may we stay focused on our highest ideals!

Between Us (October 2023)

It’s raining, again, finally. I am relieved, again. It surprises me how much I worry about the change in our local climate (and everywhere else!). My worry is about the whole thing – here and everywhere else. My surprise has more to do with feelings and memories I have about this place – a temperate rain-forest in my mind and body. A place of nearly constant moisture – mist, drizzle, rain, rivers, oceans. (When I first moved here in the early 1980’s, I heard someone say that this climate was good for thinking, having something to do with negative ions generated by moving water….) I think this is a very common human trait: in our deep need to know and understand, we make assumptions about the way things are. We translate the way we think things are into the way things should be. Hot, dry summers in Oregon? No. And yet, over and over and over again, Life offers us the teaching that things change, and rarely meet our needs or expectations. If we are willing, we help ourselves to begin again everyday, to let go of our assumptions and meet the world anew.

That’s the work and the journey we share as members of the Fellowship – to help each other be able to grow and change as everything changes. And yes, to support and comfort each other when that work is hard – which is most of the time! We do that best by continually meeting each other, by listening, and conversing, and sharing time and activities. Everything we do is for the aim of helping each other grow and change as everything changes. As October arrives, I am grateful again to be part of this learning,
helping community. I am wondering what this new season will bring – including what the trees will look like – so many have brown edges from the heat of the summer. Will the colors arrive? Will they meet my hopes and expectations? I’m relieved that whatever happens, I am part of this beautiful companionship with all of you, and we’ll meet what comes together.