Rev. Kathleen Rolenz once said, “Throughout history, we have moved to the rhythms of mystery and wonder, prophecy, wisdom, teachings from ancient and modern sources, and nature herself.” Those “rhythms” are evident in Singing the Living Tradition and Singing the Journey, the two hymnals from which we draw much of the music used in our worship services. In honor of National Poetry Month, let’s celebrate famous poets throughout the ages whose words of wonder, prophecy, and wisdom call to us in melody and rhythm from the pages of our hymnals. Let’s also seek insight into the spiritual lives of these poets and their sources of inspiration. Lots to think and wonder about, and lots of music, await!
Speaker: Jerry Lazzaro
The rise to prominence of Unitarianism and Universalism in the 19th Century is associated with a lengthy roster of distinguished men. Often overlooked is the role women played in the development and dissemination of the new approach to religion and spirituality that challenged established dogma and laid the foundation of our liberal religious faith. So, let’s take some time to highlight the words and deeds of an A-team of 19th Century UU women such as Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Harriet Martineau, Louisa May Alcott, and Julia Ward Howe who helped shape our liberal religious faith and influenced its trajectory.
In seeking personal growth and fulfillment, we’re often pulled in opposite directions. American culture is riddled with narratives plugging individualism, unworthiness and scarcity, narratives that urge us to push ourselves to the limit, to “Look out for Numero Uno,” “Grab the golden ring,” “Be all that you can be!” On the other hand, for the sake of our sanity—and our souls—our faith tradition encourages to let go of self, walk humbly, and be grateful for and content with what we have and, most importantly, with who we are. How much is “enough,” not just in terms of material possessions but also in terms of who and what we are? When, if ever, can we comfortably assert that we are, that we have, that we have done “enough?”
Labor Day, created by the American labor movement in the late nineteenth-century and declared a federal holiday in 1894, was intended to be an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Today, when income inequality is worsening, and organized labor is on the defensive on many fronts, perhaps we should consider how and why these two phenomena are related. We might also consider how to interpret our UU affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person in this context.
The final lines of John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (“Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty ─ that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”) are among the most quotable in English literature. They could be dismissed as just a rhetorical flourish – a resonant example of an ageold literary device known as antimetabole. However, in biographical and historical context, the lines masterfully embody ideas regarding aesthetics, science, metaphysics and that inspired our Unitarian Universalist liberal religious faith. They also express a variety of spiritual experience not reliant on belief in a transcendent God.
Philosophers through the ages have been preoccupied with determining what, if anything, is permanent in the universe. Some became convinced the only thing permanent in the universe was change. Some thinkers maintained that something permanent exists, if not in the material world, then in some “super-natural” realm. But what about permanence and change on a more personal level? What about the existential question: “What is enduring and what is changing in ourselves, in our lives, and in our way of seeing the world?” As we stand on the threshold of a New Year, let’s make time to personally reflect on that question
My personal encounter with geology was, literally, mind expanding. Thinking in geologic time, tracing the fascinating deep history of our Earth, and handling evidence of life – life buried in sea floors that were lifted into mountains then worn by rivers into the hills and valleys we see today, was no less than a spiritual experience for me. The real “rocks of ages” are a portal to the wonder and mystery of the universe and, in my estimation, provide a greater springboard to spiritual growth than the creationist’s “Rock of Ages.”
Detective Joe Friday, iconic figure in the pioneering TV series Dragnet, exhorted potential witnesses to stick to the facts, sometimes cutting off their ramblings with a curt response like “Just the facts, Ma’am.” As we plunge precipitously down the rabbit hole pundits are labeling the “Post-truth Era,” we all need to be more aware of what actually constitutes a “fact” and appreciate that factual data are essential in any meaningful attempt to affirm our Seven UU Principles and to preserve the audacious experiment in self-governance known as the United States of America.
Throughout history, the feeling of awe has inspired spiritual awakening and, as many testify, is life altering. Let’s explore what fills us with awe and how experiencing awe influences how we think about ourselves, our place in the universe, and our connection to others.
“Be careful what we worship,” Emerson cautioned, “for what we are worshipping, we are becoming.” Throughout history, humans have worshiped anthropomorphic gods—that is, gods with human form and characteristics. However from classical antiquity to modern times such visions of god have been criticized as inadequate, disappointing, and even corrupting of the true religious impulse. Well, if not like humans, what is god like? What is “godlike?” Whether you personally believe in a god or not, who gets to answers such questions and how those questions get answered will, indeed, influence who we are becoming.