There is so much that feels wrong about our time: the pandemic, the recession, the lack of any functional governmental response, fires burning in the West, floods in the South and now the very real possibility that the Supreme Court will tilt strongly away from our values as Unitarian Universalists.
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was more than our grief at having lost one of the greatest defenders of women’s and minority rights in generations; it’s also our deep sorrow that she will be replaced by someone who will decidedly put reproductive rights and the rights of the disenfranchised in mortal danger. This is what breaks me these days. How about you?
Two weeks ago I asked you to send me stories and examples of how these times have changed us for the better. Responses included a reflection on the wisdom nature has to restore the balance of her world, a reflection from one of us on how her father, who had recently died, had taught her to persevere with humor and humility. Someone else related to me how they had interceded in a grocery store with a man who was angry at having to wear a mask, and how, with a small amount of compassion, he was able to talk him down and realize that all of us are feeling the same way.
What I have realized is that all in all, most of us in this country and indeed in the world, feel the same pain and struggle. Some more than others and some who are willing to dismiss the struggle for political reasons. But most of us are feeling the pain of these divisions and mishaps.
However, the stories of hope and compassion can sustain us through this brokenness. I saw it in the stories you shared with me and I have seen it how we have come together as a congregation. The Buddha taught that all life is dukkha, a Sanskrit word that means uneven, unfulfilling, out of joint; as Huston Smith put, “trying to push the shopping cart backwards.” Perversely perhaps, we are unified in this experience as human beings. Oh sure, some people have it far better than others, but even those who have it all together have their struggles and we all suffer the same fate at the end of our days.
Today, I am comforted by the Buddhist understanding of compassion, which literally means to walk with one in suffering. There is far more compassion than we see and this is the other great unity that holds humanity together. Smaller stories that don’t make headlines to be sure but stories about changed lives are all around us amidst our divisions.
As my friend and colleague David Bumbaugh put it, “We are here dedicated to the proposition that beneath all our differences, behind all our diversity, there is a unity that makes us one and binds us forever together, in spit of time and death and the space between the stars.”
May all of us pause to consider that which is greater together than apart.
Yours always, Rev. John