In late October, I traveled to California for a meeting. As we broke through the clouds on descent into San Diego, majestic, chiseled foothills…resplendent even in their dry season brown tones…came into view. And then came the ocean…expansive, blue, cool, rippled with white caps as far as the eye could see. From high above, I couldn’t help but admire our planet’s abundance.
As we descended further, individual estates carved into the mountainsides became apparent…each featuring circle drives and swimming pools. I sighed. The beauty of the coastline was spoiled for me by this appearance of opulence, an indication of how humans have taken advantage of nature’s abundance. But then, who was I to judge…sitting on a jet plane, heading to what could be seen as a decadent location for a committee meeting?
Abundance is a complicated thing. I can easily appreciate an abundance of beauty, an abundance of friends, an abundance of compassion and goodwill. It is more difficult to appreciate an abundance of acquired goods or accumulated wealth, especially when it is extreme or comes at the expense of others. Is abundance a good thing or a bad thing?
I’m sure you’re aware of current messaging about attracting abundance. It tells us that if we align ourselves correctly with good thoughts or with God or with the universe’s plan, then abundance will flow to us. If we pray enough, or are good enough, or do it all just right, then all good things will come our way. We will be blessed.
But are we not already blessed? Blessed with life, blessed with breath, blessed with each new day? What is it that continually goads us to believe that we need more than this?
This month we will be exploring the many tensions held within the notion of abundance. Is abundance a quantity or an attitude? Is it found within or without? Is there a competition? What responsibility do we have to sustain the earth’s abundance? Is it okay to enjoy abundance? Who deserves to experience abundance; is it something we must earn? What is the cost of abundance?
Maybe you can find some answers in this quote from John O’Donohue: “When you begin to open up to the abundance around you, you start to realize that you are not the helpless owner of a deadened life but rather a temporary guest gifted with blessings and possibilities you could neither invent or earn.”
I do know this. Life and love are abundance blessings, available freely to us all.
With gratitude for all of these blessings,
As part of the Pride Parade, here in Peterborough and elsewhere, it is traditional to stop for a moment of silence. All the music, all the whooping, all the marching, comes to a standstill as we stand to reflect on and remember those whom we have lost to AIDS and homophobia, but whose spirit and work continue to inspire us.
This year it was suggested that in that silence, we all tap our chests in a thu-thump, thu-thump rhythm… a heartbeat. The intent was that we would all thump in sync, and feel the beat of the hearts around us, and the beat of hearts the world over.
Then a horn blew…the moment was over…and the bagpipes began playing again. Those carrying our UFP banner stepped off together as if in a folk dance. Hands began to wave once more, cameras to click, voices to be raised in ‘Happy Pride’…a unique moment in time making a music all its own.
Many hearts beating in one rhythm, a rhythm made up of many unique beats. I’ve read that at a few weeks gestation, the human embryo develops cells that begin to ‘beat together’….cells that then go on to form the heart. Perhaps this means that we are wired to share a common rhythm, that we are musical, rhythmic beings that are meant to share that music with each other.
Our non-fiction read for October is This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin. In his introduction, he talks about the basic elements that make up music…one of those elements being rhythm. Rhythm, he writes, “refers to the duration of a series of notes, and to the way that they group together into units.” It is “the relationship between the length of one note and another…and is a crucial part of what turns sounds into music.”
Rhythm seems an apt metaphor for community to me… We are individual notes, and the ways in which we relate to one another…the ways that we group ourselves together… is what makes the music that is community. The particular song we play, and how loud it is, and how fast it goes, is determined by who is present. In order for the full complexity and beauty of the music to come forth, we are each called to be just the note that we are, playing in relationship with those around us.
Many notes, an infinite variety of tunes, one rhythm. Fascinating!
I’m feeling the beat with you. ~ Rev. Julie
As Unitarian Universalists, we are people of a faith that upholds the rights of freedom… freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of choice. As such, we would be both liberators and the liberated, seeking to support all people in attaining the right of freedom.
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