Monday, July 28, 2008

Candlelight Vigils in Support

Like many Unitarian Universalists, I went to a candlelight vigil at a local UU congregation this evening to express my sympathy, grief and empathy for the people of the Tennessee Valley UU Church (and some compassion for the shooter).

Safety was a theme at the vigil, how before, we viewed our sanctuary as the safest place, the place where we would be accepted, the place where we could relax. I mean, really relax -- enough to pray, to meditate, to cry, to be vulnerable, knowing the peace of being held by the interdependent web of existence.

Now the web seems to be unravelling. The tragedy occurred in just a few minutes, but now life is forever altered for those grieving and struggling to understand why and how. What about the children who witnessed this violence? How will they make sense of it?

I have so many questions, including: how will this change the way Unitarian Universalists act in the world? As UUs, we're admonished that it is not enough to show up for worship services -- no, we're supposed to be out walking the talk, letting others know where we stand, speaking up for equality and justice. Will we keep doing that, especially those UUs who live in conservative places? Once I heard Rosemany Bray McNatt speak about activism and how some people can be on the front lines, but others cannot. She gave the example of a woman responsible for raising children as someone who cannot afford to be involved in activism that could become threatening.

Except now we know that yesterday morning in Knoxville, being present for a UU service (a children's play, for God's sake) meant being in a life or death situation.

May our faith guide us toward healing as we pray for our fellow UUs,

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wrestling With Adulthood: UU Men Talk about Growing Up

Wrestling With Adulthood: Unitarian Universalist Men Talk about Growing Up is a book of essays, one of which was just published in UU World: "Finding my path..." by Manish Mishra. Mishra really bares his soul in this essay -- I actually felt embarrassed while reading it, as if I should not know such intimate details of this man's life.

Mishra contrasts the certainty he had about his life with his later discoveries, demonstrating how he inadvertently chose both the wrong career and the wrong life partner ("vocation and human connection") when in his early twenties. At the time, of course, he was completely convinced that he was doing the right thing. Does this sound familiar to any of you?

Now, Mishra realizes that he entered into both the career and the partnership without knowing who he was or what he wanted. Perhaps for some of us, we have to choose the wrong things in order to find out what we really do want. Nothing fuels self-discovery like being miserable. It provides such great incentive! But, really, how could anyone possibly make permanent decisions when only twenty years old?

When I was nineteen, I was completely sure I was marrying my life partner. People asked how I was so sure, but my answer was, "When it's right, you know it." That is a line from a beer commercial, I think! In reality, I did not realize at the time why I was drawn to that man. It wasn't for the best reasons. There is a term for relationships in which folks marry young, don't have children, then divorce before they're thirty: the starter marriage.

Some people complain about "extended adolescence" that seems to grip so many of us, but I think it is great. Life expectancy is longer than ever, so waiting until 30 or 35 to become a responsible, settled adult is perfectly reasonable.

Enough of this -- let's play kickball!