Here’s a quote we would do well to remember this month. The author is unknown, but their words are a gift: “What will mess you up most in life is the picture in your head of how it is supposed to be.”
This is not how the topic of vision is usually handled. We’re encouraged to “stay true to your vision.” We’re told, “Without vison, the people perish.” And let’s be clear: all of that is true. A clear vision gives us direction and hope.
But, all that holding fast is also risky. In short, no vision is perfect. Every vision distorts even as it clarifies. On top of that, life changes. Some doors close, new ones open.
And as Unitarian Universalists, we also know that one vision isn’t enough. As clear as our perspectives may be, we know that none is complete. To see the entire view, we need everyone’s vantage point.
At September’s PRIDE service, I used “Nanette”, Hannah Gadsby’s performance video, to illustrate the importance of hearing one another’s stories. Though I didn’t mention this, Gadsby points out example after example of Picasso’s profound misogyny. She weaves an ironic thread about how the man credited with inventing Cubism, a new form of perspective from which all angles are considered meaningful, utterly failed to consider the female gaze.
This is a poignant example of how, with myopic vision, the important views and visions of others are excluded. As Unitarian Universalists, our vision is one of an inclusive world in which all are heard. And so, along with asking what we want to see made real, we must ask others the same question. We don’t have to see things from others’ points of view; we get to see things from others’ points of view! It’s also an invitation to see the world anew!
So maybe that’s the most important vision this month. Not that of a stern-faced people sticking to their single vision through thick and thin. But that of a playful people exchanging visions and helping each other encounter new and larger worlds. I love that notion! What about you?
With you on the journey!
Past Stone Soup Columns
Here we are, entering another year as companions on the spiritual journey. Our theme for this month is “emergence”, and I can imagine myself as a seed in the ground, pushing up through the ground, and then bursting into flower…or of being wrapped in a cocoon, germinating, waiting to open to fullness. Emergence conjures up images of surprising new life, of entering the light after being in darkness, or of standing in awe as something unexpected unfolds before our eyes.
This kind of emergence was foremost in our minds as we chose this as our September theme. It seemed the perfect way to enter a new church year…a willingness to be drawn into new growth and to envision more dynamic ways of being. Emergence begs these questions…what is unfolding? what is pulsing toward birth? what doors are we being called to open?
But surprisingly…something new emerged as I explored this theme. In philosophy, in science, and in systems theory, emergence is used to describe novel patterns and formations which could not have been predicted, but which come into being by virtue of the interactions between diverse entities in any system. Emergence is order spontaneously arising out of chaos. Emergence refers to realities that are more than the sum of the parts.
Emergence is what we can do together that we could never have done alone. Emergence is what happens when we gather in community, and allow each person their own uniqueness and autonomy, even as we strive for wholeness and coherence. Emergence is what happens when we continue to evolve…as individuals and as a group…always in process. Emergence happens when we interact authentically and openly with one another, without holding too tightly to rules and assumptions. And the beauty is…we can’t know what marvelous things will happen!
Beloved community is a whole that has life-giving properties that each person does not have alone. Beloved community comes about because of the interactions and connections between and among us.
Your one wild and precious contribution is necessary for our emergence. Come, be a part of the possibility!
See you very soon!
At John Morgan’s memorial service on June 29, words were shared from Rev. Shawn Newton (Toronto First) telling of how John had taught him, in deeds, of the fond bonds formed between a minister and the congregation.
As I head away from you for summer holidays and study leave, I feel rather emotional. This has been a full year. You have supported me through a difficult time, and you have celebrated my ministry, and you have ‘shown up’ for this community in innumerable ways.
My wish for you is that you have a safe and happy summer, enjoying as fully as possible this beautiful world. May you feel the embrace of loved ones, the thrill of new experiences, and by rocked by the gently spinning of the planet. All shall be well, my friends, for you are here, and being here now is what we have, and we are here together.
— Rev. Julie
Do you remember the scene in Sleeping Beauty when the fairies come to bless the long-awaited baby princess? In Disney’s version, Mistress Flora, Mistress Fauna, and Mistress Merryweather float in, looking rather like colorful plump nuns, and begin to take turns bestowing blessings on the sweet child. First she is given the blessing of beauty, second the blessing of song…but alas, we never know what the third blessing is, because Mistress Merryweather is pre-empted by the arrival of a wicked fairy. Flashes of lightening…ominous music…doom and gloom…and then all hear the curse that the princess will one day prick her finger on a spindle and go to sleep for one hundred years.
At a young age, many of us figure out the difference between a blessing and a curse. Through Disney and storybooks, we learn that we should cheer for the good fairies and ‘boo’ for the wicked ones. We also, I suppose, learn that only certain people can grant blessings or bestow curses…fairies, witches, sorceresses, warlocks…priests, ministers…just the ones with special powers. And yet each week we light our chalice asking that we be inspired to bless and not to curse.
Blessing. Just saying the word feels good. A blessing also has nothing to do with specific words, and has everything to do with the energy we create and send out around us. It is an extension outward of attention and intention for the wellbeing of another. It is kindness offered and positive thoughts sent. To bless another is to show love and concern.
Blessings are relational; human to human, nature to human, person to animal, bird to flower…blessings involve an interaction infused with goodwill. In a beloved community, such as the one we strive to create at UFP, blessing rises between us… between our caring hearts and out of the trust we place in one another.
To bless the world, we have to feel that we have the ability to do so, but are often conflicted about this power. Who are we to offer a blessing? How could we be so presumptuous or even egotistical? But blessing isn’t about power at all. The Hebrew word for blessing, brakha, is rooted in the word for knee, suggesting that we receive blessing by kneeling down, by making ourselves small and receptive …receptive to all the gifts that surround us. And perhaps this is also the best position from which to give blessings…from a place of gratitude and humility, not a place of power or privilege.
And to bless is also a choice…to bless the world is an intentional choice. After each disappointment or failure, maybe we should say, “I choose to bless the world.” After each broken heart, we might say, “I choose to bless.” After each hurt, to bless. We have to choose it again, and again, and again.
May we be a community that chooses to bless.
“I’m not at all creative…I don’t paint, I don’t write songs, I’m not a poet…” Have you ever heard anyone say something like this? Have you said it?
Creativity is usually associated with the arts, and perhaps because the arts are so harshly curated and judged, most of us have a difficult time claiming our creativity. In school, we lined our art projects on the wall alongside those of our classmates, and then waited to see whose would be deemed the best. We have been taught that some of what we create is art, and some is not.
But thankfully, creativity is not limited to artistic expression. Each of us needs creativity just to get through our days…problem solving, dreaming, making choices, trying new things, seeking connections, fixing the broken.
Peggy Taylor said: “Creativity is our ability to dream things up and make them happen.” Conjuring up new ideas and possibilities is what creativity is all about. Using “what is” as the starting place, we imagine the “not yet.” But sometimes, we stop there, find the fun in the dreaming and neglect the part about making those imaginings real.
Making it real can be hard, and it can be scary too. Trying new things requires courage and the willingness to fail. Being our most creative and unique selves might cause others to cheer, but it can also lead to being laughed at or excluded. Yes, there is joy, beauty and play in creativity, but there is also insecurity, loneliness and self-doubt.
Maybe we should also talk about “co-creativity” this month. Where did we get the idea that artists and inventors are isolated, independent geniuses? In fact, new ideas come from the clash of difference. New art emerges only after inspiration from those who’ve gone before. Better forms of community are built by those who stick with the chaos and the struggle.
Simply put, creators need companions. It’s all a way of reminding us that the creative self-expression needs a venue. Those sacred sources of inspiration inside us – our imagination, unique voice and inner muses – want to come out and play, and they need playmates! Creativity asks us to stay connected to each other.
So as we wonder about creativity this month, ask “What do I want to create?” but also ask “Who are my partners?”
The universe is predicated on the open possibilities of newness. With gratitude for all of our sources of creativity – within us and all around us – let us begin.
With you with all my heart,