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December 2006
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February 2007

Morning meditation - Life is about the search, not about the answers

Can a person ever know enough, have all the answers, say that his or her education is over? If the human mind and heart are truly free and open, then there is an awareness that truth is infinite, neverending, always unfolding, fruitful, and wondrous. I have a bar card which says, "If you think you know what's going on, you're probably full of shit." If we were to be truly honest with ourselves, most of us are full of shit most of the time if certitude were the criterion being used to make the judgement of confidence we have in knowing anything philosophical, theological, or religious.

The fourth tenant of the 10 beliefs of Unitarian Universalists is "We believe in the never-ending search for Truth. If the mind and heart are truly free and open, the revelations which appear to the human spirit are infinitely numerous, eternally fruitful, and wondrously exciting."

A friend of mind calls UU "organized skepticism" and I like her descriptive phrase. Knowing "the Truth", being certain in one's faith, having the answers, imposing your answers on others, is a form of soul murder. This kind of faith, while providing security and diminishing one's existential anxiety, diminishes one's human spirit, locks it in a prison, solidifies into a rigidity which is not healthy for the indivdual or his or her relationships with others. This kind of faith often cuts people off from listening with respect to other people's stories, and prejudges ways of looking at oneself and the world which might add variety and enrichment to our human experience. One of my favorite bumper stickers says "People who want to share their religious views with you, rarely want you to share yours with them."

The search for truth is what makes us human, and we can always learn more until we take our last breath. There is an old Buddhist expression, "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him." Why would anyone kill a Buddha? Because we will look to him to provide us with the answers and we will stop our own search for truth. Truth is infinite, wondrous, exquisite, and satisfying. Life is about the search, not about the answers.

Morning meditation - Livng creatively

Why was I born? What is the purpose of my life? What happens to me when I die? What should I believe? To what philosophy and/or theology do I owe my allegiance? How do I find the answers to these questions? Are these questions a puzzle or a mystery? A puzzle can be solved; it is a problem which has a solution once we puzzle it out. A mystery is an unanswerable question; it is a curiosity which has no solution. It can be explored, reflected on, contemplated, but there is no solution, there is nothing to be "discovered", there is nothing to be "learned", there is, though, something to be created.

Our lives are works of art, they a projects in development, they are not complete under they are over. You were born to become the person that God and you create you to become. The purpose of your life is that which you decide gives it meaning, and what happens when you die as best we can tell is the meaning and memories your life has given to others.

The third tenant of ten of the Unitarian Universalist beliefs is the belief in the authority of reason and conscience as the final arbiter of theology not some book, or official, or very intense emotional experience. Books, and officials, and intense emotional experiences can be informative, illuminating, and sometimes helpful on our spiritual journey, but they are not enough to build a life on. A life is a precious gift given to us by the universe to do with it as we will and for which we must take responsibility. To foist that responsibility onto others whether people or institutions or belief systems is a derelicton in duty; it is an abdicaton of our responsibility.

In Alcoholic Anonymous they say that every individual needs to take their own inventory, they shouldn't waste time taking other people's inventory for them. In prison, it is a hard learned fact that every inmate, incarcerated against their will, has to do their own time, they can't do someone else's. We all have to do our own time here on this earth plane for the period of time that the universe puts us here. Do the best you can. Do it with the good sense which Mother Nature has given you. Do it with awareness, compassion, love, patience, forbearance, and for god sakes do it with creativity using reason and conscience.

Morning meditation - The spiritual power of tolerance

Tolerance, compassion, patience, humility are qualities which lend themselves to the listening of others. This kind of listening takes empathy, courage, and discipline. This kind of listening is the second tenant of the Unitarian Universalist's list of 10 beliefs. UUs believe in the toleration of religious ideas and the understanding that some religious ideas have intrinsic merit, and potential value for those who would come to appreciate them.

UUs are often made fun of because they don't believe in anything. There is the bumper sticker, "If you don't believe in something, you will fall for anything." Even though cute and funny, this bumper sticker idea is not true. UUs believe in listening, in consideration, in respect, and this takes discipline, strength, and a nondefensiveness which is able to manage threat to ego in a constructive way.

Belief in toleration of religious ideas is not an idea for the insecure, the power hungry, those who have control issues. Belief in the toleration of religious ideas is for the secure, the humble, the brave who can exercise respect in the face of insult, denigration, and hate. This kind of spiritual strength comes from a Master who loves humankind and the world we live in with a reverence, and compassion, and awe which goes beyond words and if it can be spoken at all, is poetry.

Morning Meditation - Organized skepticism

A friend of mine calls Unitarian Universalism "organized skepticism". Her description of UUs theology made me smile knowingly. The first tenent of the UU theology is that the individual has a right to develop their own personal theology and to openly express it without fear of censure or reprisal. This idea fits well for my understanding of What God Wants.

Having been raised a Roman Catholic, I was taught that the individual conscience was primary even though the Church teaches that the Magisterium, that is, the bureaucratic church, has authority to declare church doctrine to which all good Catholics must adhere or face excommunication, and in the days of old, burning at the stake.

Of course, religious organizations are club like and as clubs they have the right to kick out anybody that doesn't follow their rules. They have right to set their standards and qualifications for membership. However, do they have the right to claim to speak for God Almighty? Church officials assert their right to speak for God Almighty based on their authoritative intepretation of some book which they claim was "revealed" to them to be God's Word and Will, but these are species claims that have no empirical basis. Whatever authority these claims possess is simply that which people agree and decide to give them with no basis whatsovever other than the social compact which these people have entered into to believe. Childrent do this when they swear allegiance to the flag, to the scout oath, to their alma mater.

Skepticism, on the other hand, is the beginning of a spiritual life. It is life of curiosity, of awe, of reverence at the mystery, of questioning, and in some instances rebellion. It takes courage to go against the grain, to live with ambiguity, to travel through life insecure in believing where our soul will come to rest. As the Beatles sang 30 years ago, "I'm going to try with a little help from my friends. I'll get by with a little help from my friends." It is comforting to know that there is a place where skepticism is organized, respected, and supported, a place where fellow travelers become friends.