Friday, September 19, 2014

The paradox of a UU way of life

I have shared with you before how much I love Linda McCullough Moore's stories in her book of short stories, This Road Will Take Us Closer To The Moon, and I love the seventh story, "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" where she tells the story of entertaining a Cambodian immigrant couple for supper.

Moore describes the narrator's anxiety about hosting them and the narrator's awkwardness and self consciousness in trying to relate with a couple from a different culture as an American. Moore subtly catches the guilt of the American about our consumptive greed, sense of entitlement, sense of being exceptional in the face of foreign witnesses that make us unconsciously uncomfortable. There is a recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the desire for justice, equity, and compassion in our human relations, but also a shameful awareness that we continually fail to implement these values in our behavior and policies which we proudly pontificate. Here's one scene in the story that exemplifies this complex idea:

     "I felt guilty when I ran into Boren. I was buying soy milk that has sixty calories and nine grams of protein in a glass. No animals were killed in its procurement. A purchase devoid of any sin, or any that I knew of. But nonetheless, I felt greedily consumptive, with four liters in my basket. Foreigners always make me feel so American, a card carrying member of the U.S.
     And club membership is a tricky thing for me. I hardly ever fit.
     'You thrive on ostracism,' my sister told me on once. I beamed.
     'It's not a compliment,' she said.
     But I do try to not be part of any group I'm in. It's not that hard. People are usually pretty happy to exclude me."

One of the characteristics of a Unitarian Universalist way of life, taken seriously, is a desire to become a better person and to improve the world. This self consciousness is a necessary foundation for this growth, and yet how can we be in the now, be present, when we continually anxiously want to become our better selves? This is the paradox we UUs live. Moore hits it spot on in this story "My County 'Tis Of Thee."

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