In each of his 2003 Massey Lectures, Thomas King began by
recalling the story of the turtle supporting the world on its back, which leads one to ask what’s under the turtle. “Another turtle” is the answer, followed by the same question, and the same answer, and so on, until one might ask how many turtles there are. “Nobody knows, but it’s turtles all the way down.”
Each lecture concludes with King’s repeated assertion that “the truth about stories is that’s all we are.”
Recently, when speaking to someone about my heritage, I said that it’s “Swedes all the way down.” The Swedes directly below me were immigrants to the US, and I grew up amidst nostalgic references to the ‘old country’ that explained where we came from.
The story about the turtles is a story about creation — one the puts forth an interdependent worldview involving ‘all our relations.’ My Swedes are a sort of creation story too, but it is one narrowly focused on the people and culture that eventually brought me into being…a stack of Swedes who gave me life, and upon whom I built my identity.
In a recent “meaning-making session” for Beloved Conversations (the UU anti-racism program) we were challenged to see that not remembering our connections to ancestors reinforces our living in individualism, and individualism perpetuates the harm of white supremacy culture.
When we intentionally and regularly remember that we’re connected…all the way down through the Swedes and the turtles…we see that there is something larger than ourselves, and that we are tied to everything and everyone. Now, that’s a true story!
We are connected. All the way down!
Here for you,
Past Stone Soup Columns
I’m something of a student of Process Theology, or perhaps better to say, I’m becoming a student. Process Theology is a way of framing existence and meaning within the rubric of change…with an understanding that we are constantly becoming…never finished, never stagnant, always growing and renewing ourselves.
This way of looking at the world and life makes it more possible for me to forgive myself…more open to learning…more appreciative of the influences that shape my becoming…less prone to defeatism…more open to what will come.
I remember once watching a sci-fi program about a place where adults didn’t age or change. Imagine that…a place where there’d come a time when you were “done”, and there would be no more growth. This imagined reality caused all sorts of dilemmas, but I remember being most struck by the lack of surprises. Life would be so ho-hum.
Each of us exists in a never-ending cycle of birth and death. We came into being as part of a process that will eventually take us back out of this world. And the most wonderful thing? All along the way, we are becoming. What a wonder!
On the journey with you,
About a hundred years ago, Rev. Lewis B. Fisher, the dean of the Universalist seminary at St. Lawrence University, described his faith in this way. “Universalists are often asked to tell where they stand. The only true answer…is that we do not stand at all, we move.”
It seems to me that commitment is traditionally framed as taking a stand, holding firm, being UNmoving. The faith of my upbringing would have me ‘stand on solid rock’, and ‘be like a tree that shall not be moved.’ So, when in my own seminary days, I heard the words of Fisher, I was hooked. I loved having a vision for a faith that moved, evolved, learned, acted.
So, what kind of commitments can be made by the likes of us, who would be open-minded, always open to change and transformation? For me, it means an unmoving commitment to ideals (justice, equity, love, a healthy planet, etc.) combined with a willingness to shift our understandings and rearrange our priorities as we learn and grow. What seems an enlightened way to think and act today, may become obsolete and even harmful tomorrow.
Maybe a big part of our commitment must be to being both flexible and strong,,, dedicated while open to new insights. As a people of commitment, we are committed to our values while navigating an ever-changing world, allowing ourselves to be changed in the process.
That sounds tough. Isn’t it great that we don’t have to go this alone?
Committed to being on the journey with you,
It’s the beginning of a new year and we are all trying to imagine what 2021 will bring. On the one hand, time is simply marching on. On the other, the question of ‘what’s gonna happen’ invites us to imagine a new way. The simple framing of this as a ‘new year’ creates a clean slate.
We are always standing in the space between what has been and what could (and should) be. Imagination is our uniquely human way to envision ourselves…and our relationships and our world…as we want them to be.
What about this? What if what we can imagine changes us? What we imagine builds an interior storehouse of possibilities and stories which then informs our capacity…and our ability…to be resilient, and hopeful, and compassionate, and generous. We are changed by what we imagine, and as changed beings, we are more likely to do something each day to narrow the distance between what is and what could be (thanks to Parker Palmer for this bit of wisdom.)
2021 is a blank canvas in front of us. What will be will be the result of a communal process, entered into by the interconnected community of all that is.
And so, let your imagination go wild! Imagine all the beautiful possibilities! I’ll be right there with you!
On December five and twenty…
I’m wishing each one of you a deep peace.
There’s been a great convergence in the sky, a great (annual) meet-up of multiple holidays and holy days from various traditions, and a great melancholy within…at least within me. I am grateful for all that I have…and I wish ‘things’ were different. I am healthy… and I grieve the toll the virus has taken on the global community. I have work that is meaningful that occupies my days…and I wish there was time and opportunity to do other things. I have so much. Something is missing. A great melancholy within. I am trying to make peace with this. I imagine that many of us are feeling this way.
No one is sure what ‘fum, fum, fum’ refers to in this old Catalan carol. Is it smoke from chimney fires, the thrum of drums, the strum of a guitar? Is it an expression like ‘bah humbug’? In one version of the lyrics, the song says, “on this day so cold and dreary…he is born the son of God.” Melancholy. It’s cold and dark. And there’s a promising new birth. Both/and. (Listen to it HERE.)
And so, again, on this day and in all the days to come, I wish for each of you a deep and abiding peace.
December 25, 2020
PS. January’s theme is IMAGINATION! Watch for the theme packet in next week’s FLAME.