Monday, July 28, 2014

Story of the day, STD free since 1995

Back in the 70s there was this cheesy, romantic movie starring Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neil, heart throbs of the day, entitled, "Love is never having to say you're sorry." which was extremely popular at the box office, and the slogan "Love is never having to say you're sorry" gave boomers permission to behave as they wanted without guilt, or even concern for how people they supposedly loved might feel.

Sally said, "That movie was rubbish and it ruined my life. I really believed that tripe. My boyfriends would complain to me about my free love attitude, and I'd tell them I loved them at least at the time of the consummation of our love which now I recognize as lust, and brush them off and go my merry way. Now it all seems so unfair, disrespectful, now, you know?"

Linda said, "Sal, don't worry. We were all that way. A product of the times what with birth control and everything. I saw what look liked a mother and daughter at a peace protest last week  and they were waving to the cars passing by. It said, 'STD free since 1995'. I started laughing so hard I almost pulled over because I didn't know if I could keep my car in its lane."

"Yeah, well, I don't know if I ever told you, but I had a couple of abortions too along with chlamydia and genital herpes which slowed me down a little bit, but often I wouldn't tell my partners and I felt guilty which I tried to erase with pot and LSD. When I got genital warts I knew I was done with my 'free ways,'" said Sally. "I started to feel unclean."

"We had some good times though, didn't we?" said Linda.

"At the time I thought so, but I now I wonder if I wasted part of my life, and I get down on myself."

"Time to find the Lord," said Linda laughing.

"I tried that. Didn't I tell you about the time I got saved? I thought it was right. It was about 7 years ago, and for awhile I felt like my sins had been washed away, atoned for by the blood of Jesus when He died on the cross. But that explanation isn't working for me any more. I think I have more responsibility and I'm still thinking about some of the guys I hurt. I try extra hard to be kind to people, you know, to make up for my uncaring, cavalier ways earlier in my life," said Sally.

"Look who's turning into a goody two shoes," said Linda.

"You're not helping, Linda," Sally said.

"Okay, listen, this is turning into a bit of a downer. I've got to go. When you get done feeling sorry for yourself, give me a call," and Linda got up to leave.

"I'll see you next time," said Sally.

"Yeah, I'll see you when I see you," said Linda over her shoulder as she walked out the door.

Sally started to tear up and she wondered what was wrong with her. Why was she losing her friends? Her therapist had told her he thought she was outgrowing them, and loneliness sometimes is the price you pay for growing up and moving on with your life.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

It is written in A Course In Miracles:

“Forgiveness is the central theme that runs throughout salvation, holding all its parts in meaningful relationships, the course it runs directed and its outcome sure.” ACIM, Lesson 169.12.1

As we consider the second principle of "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations" we cannot understand these concepts without considering their opposites: injustice, inequity, and disrespect, and when we do consider the opposites it leads to ideas of rectification of these mistakes or evil as it is often called in theological discussions.

Rectification can occur without an acknowledgment of the harm done requiring the repair, but as human beings, we want to make sense out of our experience and so the recognition and the acknowledgment of injustice, inequity, and disrespect is needed so that the same mistakes and evil is not repeated, unknowingly, again.

It is one thing to be unjust, inequitable, and disrespectful. It is another thing to do these things and know that you are doing them. It is a third thing, to do these things, know that you doing them, and want to rectify the mistakes and harm that has been done. It is a fourth thing to do these things, know that we are doing them, rectify the mistakes and harm, and then teach others to do the same.

Often, we make the mistake of thinking that if we acknowledge our mistakes by admitting them that this acknowledgement and admission should be good enough to assuage the hurt of the victim and yet, the mere admission and acknowledgement is not enough. There are three other things that need to happen: an explanation of the factors that contributed to the mistakes and evil, a genuine apology based on an honest and whole hearted acknowledgement and explanation, and lastly, the making of amends, the repairing of the harm.

Should there be reparations in the United States to African Americans for slavery? Has affirmative action policies been enough to repair the harm of ongoing racial discrimination and financial inequities of wealth distribution in our society? If a spouse "cheats" on his or her partner has there been an exploration and explanation of the factors that contributed to this infidelity occurring, along with a genuine apology, and how could the harm done by the betrayal be repaired?

The path to rectifying injustice, inequity, and disrespect is forgiveness made up of four steps: a discussion of and taking of responsibility for the harm that was done, a explanation of the factors which contributed to the mistake having been made, a genuine, not a band-aid, apology based on the first two steps, and the making of amends. These four steps can take 30 minutes, 30 days, 30 months, or 30 years.

The ethical imperative upon which Unitarian Universalist theology could be based is forgiveness. Can we forgive ourselves for our involvement in actions, policies, and laws that are unjust, for the times we have contributed to relationships in ways that made them inequitable, and for the attitudes we have manifested which have been disrespectful. Once we can forgive ourselves and take responsibility for the mistakes we have made, the evil we have perpetrated, then, with a humble and repentant heart, we can forgive others.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Story of the day - Last days of the world as we've known it

"Climate change deniers are evil," said Laketa. It had been a long day. She was tired and had been listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio and even though she had promised not to listen to him ever again, her husband had left the car radio tuned to the station and she caught his diatribe as she started up the car.

"So why are only the drug dealers and users going to jail," said Chuck, her husband. "It seems that the damage done to the planet by the fossil fuel corporations and their shills and the politicians is far worse that whatever damage is done by drugs."

"Who has the power and the money?" said Laketa disgustedly. "The corporations have bought our government lock, stock, and barrel, and turning this planet into a cesspool."

"People love having pools. You've always wanted one if we could afford it, right?" said Chuck.

"You're not funny at all. Listen, this isn't something we should be laughing about!"

"Come on, sour puss. Ya either laugh or cry, right? It's like having the orchestra play on the deck of the Titanic as it was sinking after it crashed into the iceberg," said Chuck. "While these changes will take decades or a century, it feels like the last night of the world. Remember Bruce Cockburn's great song? We used to make love to it. Remember?

Studying climate change is the work of science not the work of conscience.

Dr. Ovid Byron is an entomologist, a scientist, and he, patiently, explains to Dellarobia, the role of science in our contemporary world.

     "I am not a zookeeper," he said. "I'm not here to save monarchs. I'm trying to read what they are writing on our wall."

     Dellarobia felt stung. "If you're not, who is?" She could think of some answers: the knitting women, the boys with duct-taped clothes. People Cub and her in-laws thought to be outside the pale of normal adulthood.

     "That is a concern of conscience," he said. "Not of biology. Science doesn't tell us what we should do. It only tells us what is."

     "That must be why people don't like it," she said, surprised at her tartness.

     Ovid, too, seemed startled. "They don't like science?"

     "I'm sorry. I'm probably speaking out of turn here. You've explained to me how big this is. The climate thing. That it's taking our stuff we're counting on. Buth other people say just forget it. My husband, guys on the radio. They say it's not proven."

     "What we're discussing is clear and present, Dellarobia. Scientists agree on that. These men on the radio, I assume, are nonscientists. Why would people buy snake oil when they want medicine?"

     "That's what I'm trying to tell you. You guys aren't popular. Maybe your medicine's too bitter. Or you're not selling us. Maybe you're writing us off, thinking we won't get up. You should start with kindergartners and work your way up."

     "It's too late for that. Believe me."

     "Don't say that, 'too late.' I hate that. I've got my kids to think about." pp.320-321

Dellarobia is thinking about her children, 6 year old Preston in kindergarten, and toddler, Cordie. Are we adults thinking of our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren and beyond? Not much. We've found Rush Limbaugh and the other climate change deniers very attractive because we don't want to believe the science and imagine the world we are leaving the people coming after us.

Climate change is not the same thing as weather as most intelligent people know, but less intelligent people only know what is happening to their bodies, they don't think abstractly enough to understand things they can't see. Fossil fuel corporations have a field day with these concrete thinkers who regurgitated trivial information for their exams in high school and college to get a good grade, but never developed the skills of critical thinking and analysis.

Using Fowler's stages of religious development, I would guess that most UUs, especially those who have converted, are at the higher stages of development indicated by attitudes of curiosity instead of certainty, systems thinking instead of linear, reductive cause and effect thinking, and tolerance of ambiguity instead of black and white concrete conclusions. People at lower stages of faith development believe in supernatural gods who control the universe and reward good and bad behavior of people on earth who are perceived as being regarded by the gods as children.

We are at a time in our evolutionary process when human beings need to grow up and Dr. Byron is clear with Dellarobia that the role of science is to report the data and the facts. What people do with that information is determined by another realm, one of values, morals and ethics, the realm usually thought of as religion or as Dr. Byon puts it, "conscience". Science, Dr. Byron, says tells us what is, not what we should do.

And Unitarian Universalism is pretty clear about what we should do although I am not sure, given where our evolutionary path has taken us, that it is enough. The seventh principle says that UUs covenant to affirm and promote the respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part. Perhaps it should say to protect and respect.....

Dellarobia in a child-like way wants the scientists to protect us from the climate change they are reporting as if they were gods or some sort of modern day super heroes who will, with magic powers, tame the weather and save life on the globe. But alas, scientists are objective, and study phenomena. "It is what it is" as the Buddhists say. What should be done about what is, and what is wanted, is based on another kind of knowledge: values. What should we value? What is the Good Life and how do we create it? The story describing that is the work of religion. As Unitarian Universalists we have a lot of work to do to tell our story and promote our values in a world that often seems deaf and blind.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stories of forgiveness - How did your family do forgiveness?

They were in couple's counseling after Jerry had his affair and Chris was devastated. It had been a year since the discovery and end of it and yet Chris complained that she still couldn't trust Jerry.

"How did your families do forgiveness?", Martha the therapist asked.

They both stared back at her seemingly at a loss for words.

Finally, Jerry spoke first, "I don't remember either my father or my mother ever saying they were sorry or apologizing. I guess we just sucked it up, waited for whatever it was to blow over, and moved on. Of course, they both drank a lot and denied there was a problem, but neither my sister or I could depend on them. You just never knew what kind of shape either one of them would be in."

"My Dad was a drinker too," said Chris, and my mother was bitter and criticized him constantly. She would never admit to anything because I think she was too angry and didn't think she owed him anything. When he got sober, he went to AA and did his fourth step and then wanted to make his amends. He tried to make up for lost time and years of crap. I was 17 at that point and couldn't have cared whether he lived or died. My mother left him and was even more bitter and depressed and so I never really had parents I could depend on, who, you know, were there for me. I guess I never learned how to forgive. I've been too afraid that if I forgive someone, especially if I really care, that they will just take advantage and hurt me again."

Martha said, "I wonder if you would be interested in doing some research and watching and asking other people how they do forgiveness? Forgiveness is a skill and takes practice. Like any skill you want to learn, you have to see it demonstrated in order to get an idea of how to try it."

"My friend told me that if I accept Jesus as my Lord and savior all my sins will automatically be forgiven. I don't have to do anything because Jesus already died on the cross for me," said Jerry.

"What do you think of that idea," asked Martha.

"Sounds too good to be true," said Jerry.

"It certainly doesn't work for me," said Chris.

To be continued

How can Unitarian Universalists save the world?

Once the At-One-Ment has been achieved when everybody loves everybody all the time, justice, equity, and compassion will not longer be necessary. These things will be moot, irrelevant, and meaningless for when we abide in Unconditional Love what could be the purpose of these things?

Even today, before the Atonement, in relationships which are Holy, and based on Unconditional Love sometimes between spouses or a parent and a child, such concepts of justice, equity, and compassion have little, if any, meaning. The existence of Unconditional love may be very rare because most human relationships are "special" and they involve the principle of "give to get." Egos are easily offended and hurt leading to resentments, grievances, recrimination, and counter attack. Often when we review our arguments, discord, and mutual recrimination, we recognize that what upset us was silly if not insane. Psychologist, Richard Carlson, wrote a whole series of books back in the late 90s and early 2000s on the theme "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff...And It's All Small Stuff."

While we continue to work towards the At-One-Ment, and Unconditional Love is still a rare occurrence, justice, equity, and compassion are necessary virtues which need to be practiced individually and in our institutions and organizations. The key to achieving justice, equity, and compassion is the awareness of incentives that motivate human behavior.

Plato taught that a person will always do what he or she thinks is good at the time. It is easy to rationalize how the end (which we think is good for us) justifies the means. It has been debated for millennia whether a good end can every be achieved by bad means.

As DNA evidence is now showing regularly through the work of organizations like the Innocence Project, many innocent people have been found guilty by our criminal justice system that all too often behaves criminally itself, incarcerating and even executing innocent people to further some District Attorney's career. Justice is more often about winning or losing than it is about truth, and equity (fairness).

There is a perversity in human nature that would rather be right than be honest, truthful, and when pride is at stake, compassion goes out the window. This perversity in the minds of people with power leads to tragedy that is endemic in people's lives in our culture and around the world. Unitarian Universalism has little to say about this perversity, this pride and egotism, which trumps the principles that UUs say they hold dear.

In the face of this perversity born out of pride, egotism, and desire for advantage what does Unitarian Universalism have to offer? Not much that is well known or practiced. My suggestion is forgiveness while Rev. Guengerich suggests gratitude. Rev. James Ford, Senior Pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island describes himself as a "first and seventh principles preacher". Ford seems to assert that the first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the seventh principle, respect for the interdependent web, encompasses the basis for the ethical imperative of Unitarian Universalism. I agree with Rev. Guengerich and Rev. Ford but remain puzzled about how to practice these in my daily life?

My daily practice has devolved into just being mindful of when I am irritated, annoyed, distressed, resentful, nasty, and forgiving myself with the promise of correction, and forgiving others their stupidities and hurtful behavior. It is in forgiveness that I experience peace, comfort, a realignment with the universe. It is also in forgiveness that I experience a rectification of injustice, a re-balancing of what's fair and equitable, and it certainly motivates a compassionate attitude towards others and the world.

More than any other ingredient and factor, the At-One-Ment takes forgiveness which requires a humble, self-effacing heart. There are multiple opportunities to practice forgiveness every day and I believe that it is the ethical imperative upon which Unitarian Universalists can base their faith and save the world.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Will you help spread the word about the UU A Way Of Life online magazine?

I'd like to grow the readership of UU A Way Of Life. We currently have about 200 - 300 hits per day. Will you help?

You could email an article easily using the icons at the bottom of each article as well as tweet it or post it to your facebook page. Hopefully a little "taste" and invitation will spark an interest to visit.

This on-line magazine can reach more people sharing our Unitarian Universalist values and it needs your help.

Also, the two books, 16 Reflections on the First Principle and 16 Reflections on God Revised are available for free either in a PDF file or in a hard copy for free. Both of these booklets can be used for discussion groups because each reflection is followed by 3 or 4 questions for consideration and/or discussion. If you would like a copy contact me at davidgmarkham@gmail.com.

Thanks for your attention, and assistance in building this on-line community.