Thursday, February 10, 2011
Life Stories - Harry H. 3
Harry H. - It was nothing dramatic, not like St. Paul being knocked off his horse, not like going to a tent revival and being born again. I was lonely, living on my own, and feeling disconnected, kind of isolated. I missed going to church but didn't want to go back to a Catholic Church. I was talking to one of my daughters on the phone around Christmas and I mentioned to her that I was thinking of visiting some churches and out of the blue she said to me that I should go to a Unitarian Universalist church. I knew of one about 25 miles from where I was living and so, as a New Year's resolution, I promised myself I would check it out. So, I started going and I started reading more about Unitarian Universalism and I liked what I was finding out. I also went on beliefnet.com and took the survey there about "what religion is best for you" and it made me laugh because when I finished the survey and the results popped up it said my #1 match was Unitarian Universalism and my worse match #36 or something like that was Roman Catholicism. I fell away from Unitarian Universalism after a year, but then about 6 months later I came back and now consider myself a good Unitarian Universalist. It is my religion of choice not of birth. I call myself a Roman Catholic Unitarian Universalist because there is some of my religious past which I cherish and it has transformed into something even more precious to me with my Unitarian Universalism. I laugh because the Unitarian Universalists will accept me with my Roman Catholicism but the Roman Catholicism would not accept the Unitarian Universalsim. That's why I call myself a Roman Catholic Unitarian Universalist and not a Unitarian Universalist Roman Catholic.
David Markham - It sounds like you have really struggled with your faith, given it a lot of thought and experimentation.
Harry H. - Yes, it has been a life long journey. One of the things I really like about Unitarian Univeralism is the fourth principle, the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Unitarian Universalism has taught me not to be afraid any more. It is okay to question, to explore, to experiment, to open my mind and heart to life in a way that most religions don't. Most religions want you to conform to their belief system if you want to be accepted by them. Unitarian Universalism has no belief system other than the value that a person should seek the truth for oneself with the help of one's fellow seekers.
David Markham - Does it bother you that Unitarian Universalism doesn't provide the answers to life's ultimate questions?
Harry H. - At first it did. I couldn't understand what this religion, this Unitarian Universalism, was about. I would enjoy the jokes about UU not believing in anything so UUs will fall for anything, but I came to appreciate that that is not true. UUs who live their faith are very courageous people. They are willing to tolerate anxiety and ambiguity and appreciate that most of life is a mystery. We can't know it completely only little parts of it. The answer that UU provides is that each person has the existential responsibility to make sense of one's own life within a broader context which society and culture provides. Unitarian Universalism is not for the immature and highly anxious. It is a faith for grown-ups if you know what I mean who are at a place where they can reflect on their own life experience and open their hearts to others. This approach is relatively rare in the religious world, very unique really, and the numbers in the denomination show this. I have become accustomed to the search, and I am enjoying journeying in the caravan with like minded seekers.
David Markham - Harry, I have enjoyed our conversation immensely and we could go on for hours, but I don't want to take advantage of you, and I frankly, am getting tired, so I would like to close our interview and I am wondering if you have last thoughts or ideas you would like to leave me and our audience with?
Harry H. - Dave, I have enjoyed this immensely. It is rare that a person gets a chance to tell his/her personal story about their life to someone who is genuinely interested. I appreciate very much what you are doing with this Life Story project and I wish you and all the people who take an interest well. I think as human beings the largest challenge we have in life is to make sense of it. We all, at some level question, why we are born, what the purpose is for our lives, and what happens when we die. I have said to myself since I was a little boy, "It's not a bad life if you know how to live it." For every human being we have to figure out how to best live our lives so we can be happy and we can contribute to the happiness of others. The ability to reflect on our experience as we go along, learn from it, and improve our functioning is what life is all about, and as I mentioned before this is always done with help from our friends. Thanks for giving me your attention and care.
David Markham - Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
This is section #3 in Life Story interviews with Harry H.