Last Saturday was the Spring Equinox, and again I went to the beach at dawn, an experience utterly different from the November morning when I was last there, under overcast skies and buried in apprehensive news on the radio. My boots marked my pace and my eyes looked ahead to avoid crushing anything precious, but I am hard-pressed to recall what lay in the sand beneath my feet. In a new light, I saw a wholly different world. Details, obscured in the Fall, I can inspect more closely. I find that I have more to learn. What are the names of these shells, and who are the mollusks that create them?
My further questions will connect the past stories of this beach to the present. Who combed these beaches of the Sound for meals, hundreds or thousands of years ago? Who laid claim to these beaches? Who made their living from them, or turned to them as a source of nourishment? Turning into this new season of light, accompanied by hesitant feelings of hope, I’m provided with an opportunity to look more carefully, more fully. The last year prompts more into all of our vision, for further examination.
Our own assumptions are also up for examination. Just as Thomas Jefferson has been found to be more complex, with contradictions between his words, values and actions, so does our denomination have a complex history of Unitarianism and Universalism alike, a mixed heritage of both abolitionists and defenders of slavery. Even among humanists and scientists there are aspects to look at anew. Darwin’s models of evolution were also used to uphold stereotypes of African people being “savages,” while Europeans were, in contrast, considered more enlightened and evolved.
We have begun a Spring journey, a migration towards affirming what we wish to value, choosing what to hold up and what we wish to let go of, just like scientists change recommendations when discovering new truths about the effectiveness of masks or vaccines. Our rationality allows us to change opinions, to reconsider – and therefore to grow.
As the sunlight asserts itself, we look at crocus among the grass, and sprouts of daffodils, with more attention than we may ever have before. What values accompany the lenses through which we see the world anew? In this new chapter of life, vaccinations provide hope, and we open ourselves to reflect critically, allowing ourselves to transform and live up to our aspirations of our best selves, both as individuals and as a society.
May our search for truth acknowledge the complexities of history behind us as well as possibilities before us, checking both for biases embedded over centuries and our own lifetime, and for what we might examine and release. And then, deliberately, we can choose what we value and will affirm in the world. Through self-examination, may we bring our best selves into this new season.
Warmly, Kim Warman