Monday, June 30, 2008

Question TWO

If the first question we have to answer is, "Who am I?" one that comes in pretty close afterward is "With whom am I?" Another way of putting this is, "Who are my people?" Or, "Where do I belong?"

One answer which might be especially comfortable for progressive folks--and, perhaps, especially for progressive, well-educated, male, European-American, non-gay people--is "I am part of the human family! All of the world's people are "my people" and I belong wherever I am!" And this is, certainly, true in a sense. There is, in a deep way, only one human race and, as it says on the header of my blog, "we are one human family, on one fragile planet, in one miraculous universe, bound by love."

And yet we are also particular people. In the incredible documentary by Lee Mun Wah, The Color of Fear, an African-American man asks a European-American man what it's like to be white. When the man can't answer, the African-American man asks, "Don't you think that's strange?" And it is strange, yet the closer one is to the "cultural norm"--and as a straight, white, well-educated male I'm a veritable poster-child for the dominant culture's norm--the more one is encouraged to see one's own experience as "universal." But a lot of what I've experienced as "universal" has not been the experience of gay people, or black people, or women, or poor people, or people with physical handicaps, or . . . well . . . it turns out . . . most other people!

So yes, of course, we belong to the human family, but this question encourages us to examine the question of who it is with whom we identify, who it is we connect with--who is our particular family within the larger human family? In Richard Bach's wonderfull book, Illusions: adventures of a reluctant messiah, the character of Donald Shimoda carries something called "The Messiah's Handook" (which can now be purchased as a stand-alone book), and among its pithy wisdom is this:
The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy
in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the
same roof.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. makes the same point in one of his works--that our real network of identity is far more vast and complex than simple bloodline. But as Jane Howard wrote,
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a
family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

So Question Two encourages us to ask, "With Whom Am I?"

In Gassho,


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Joe Bless You, George Carlin

Since learning about the death of George Carlin I've been trying to figure out a way to pay my respects. I grew up on his comedy and think that besides being incredibly funny he also fulfilled many of the important aspects of a true prophet--charging in to challenge, speaking truth to the Powers (whichever "powers" were being particularly stupid at the time.) I never met him, yet in that odd way that happens when celebreties die, I know that I will miss him.

Then I read the UU Blogger Peace Bang's tribute, which essentially consisted of a link to a video clip of one of Carlin's routines about religion that (while having some language some might find offensive) absolutely cracks me up. Maybe you, too. And while I don't agree with the theological conclusion he draws, his analysis of traditional (Christian) religion seems to me to be right on the money.

So check it out for yourself. And may I say,

Joe bless you, George Carlin. Joe bless us all.

(You'll know if you watch the video to the end . . .)

In Gassho,


Question ONE

Okay, so yesterday I implied that the only question we need to engage is, "is the universe friendly or not" or one of its variants. And in some ways I believe that that's true.

I also think, though, that there are at least four questions we need to look at or that, at least, we find ourselves drawn to over and over again in our lives and in the recorded history of our species. So maybe we only need to answer the one, but we sure seem to want to answer the other four. Here they are:
  • Who Am I?
  • Whith Whom Am I?
  • Where Am I?
  • Whose Am I?
People often answer the first question with a list of their activities and engagements: I'm a Unitarian Universalist minister; I'm a husband and father; I'm an enthusiastic video viewer; I'm a juggler. But these are really answers to the question, "What do you do?" and we're often reminded that "you are not what you do." (You've no doubt seen the bumper sticker, "We are human beings not human doings!")

So going a bit deeper we then usually bring out our relationships: I am Erik, son of Walter, grandson of Frank; husband of Mary; father of Theo and Lester; brother of Patrick and Paul; child of God. And that gets closer, but is it as deep as we can go. Would "I" still be "me" if any of these relationships changed or ended (or never existed)?

At its deepest, I think that this first question--who am I?--really encourages us to explore human nature itself. Here are some other ways of getting at this question:
  • Am I good or evil, free or determined, some of both, or a blank slate?
  • Am I the center of the universe?
  • Does life—my life?—have a purpose? (If so, what is it?)
  • What do I value?
  • What gives me strength and solace and what depletes me?
Try answering these questions sometime. Tomorrow we'll move on to Question Two.

In Gassho,


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

THE question

Albert Einstein once said, "I think the most important question facing humanity is, 'Is the universe a friendly place?' This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves." He continued:
"For if we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly-- and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process.

"If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly and that God is essentially 'playing dice with the universe', then we are simply victims to the random toss of the dice and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.

"But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives."

Thomas Merton once said, "Either you look at the universe as a very poor creation out of which no one can make anything, or you look at your own life and your own part in the universe as infintely rich, full of inexhaustible interest, opening out into the infitie futher possibilities for study and contemplation and praise."

The good people at Despair, Inc. have created this wonderful pessimist's mug so that you'll know the exact moment at which the glass becomes half-empty. Of course, this assumes an answer to the perennial question--that the glass is half-empty rather than half-full.

And yet, as I've written before, it's both. And, no doubt, the universe is both friendly and unfriendly, a "very poor creation" and "infinitely rich [and] full of inexhaustible interest." We live in a both/and universe--where light is both wave and particle and only "becomes" one when we look at it that way. Which way will you look at life? At your life?

In the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 30, God is remembered as telling the people, "I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. . . . I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses," and God then encourages them to "choose life."

Which do you choose? Which will you choose right now?

In Gassho,


Monday, June 16, 2008

The Girl Who Silenced the World at the UN

This video recently came to my attention, and I absolutely must bring it to all of yours. I've written before about people who've inspired me by their courage in "speaking truth to power" and in standing up and doing the something that they can do. (One of the Greek terms that is usually translated in the Christian Scriptures as "sin" actually means, "lying down when you should have been standing up.")

Born and raised in Vancouver, Severn Suzuki has been working on environmental and social justice issues since kindergarten. At age 9, she and some friends started the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO), a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. They traveled to 1992's UN Earth Summit, where 12 year-old Severn gave this powerful speech that deeply affected (and silenced) some of the most prominent world leaders. The speech had such an impact that she has become a frequent invitee to many UN conferences.

Please listen not only to this young person's words, but to the deeper message in the fact that a 12 year-old is speaking them to the United Nations. What could you be doing?

in Gassho,

Rev. Wik

To get a text copy of the speech, click here

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Why I'm Voting Republican

Things have been a little tumultous at First Parish in Brewster, since the announcement of my resignation to take a job at the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston. I'm very excited about the new position--and will write more about it anon--but it has set me off my blogging schedule.

This doesn't quite make up for my missed posts, but since I've now learned how to embedd these YouTube videos, I'll share this one with you as well.

in Gassho,

Rev. Wik

After all these years . . .

I just can't resist posting this so that you, too, can finally learn the answer to the mystery that has plagued the ages . . . just what the heck was Joe Cocker singing at Woodstock in 1969?

A word of warning. This may change the way you hear the song forever. It may also get you interested in probiotics. (Watch, and you'll know why.)

in Gassho,