As Unitarian Universalists, we have a complicated relationship with humility because of our religious roots.
Freedom? We love it!
Individualism? Heck yes!
Reason? Who would want to live without it?!
We needed freedom, tolerance, reason and individualism to get where we are today. Leaders like Ralph Waldo Emerson led us in that direction.
But as Unitarian Universalists, we also know that we need a healthy dose of humility to connect with folks who are oppressed.
We are humble when we tell others that truth is ever unfolding and there’s not just one way of knowing it. Unitarian Universalist minister, Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove learned about humility from her father: “To be humble, he told me, was to remain teachable. Whenever we think we know it all, real humility reminds us to stay open and willing to learn. The magic words, ‘I don't know,’ are at the essence of both awe and humility.”
We develop humility when we contemplate our smallness in relation to the universe. If you have a chance, watch this video by Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86BPM1GV8M
This kind of humility is at the heart of our faith. Rev. Wells ten Hove goes on: “When we approach the universe with awe, while our first response can and will likely be ‘Wow!’ perhaps our second response should be ‘I don't know!’
Rev. Scott Tayler from the UUA suggests these “homework” assignments for us. Identify one way this month to be “uniquely humble.” The options are endless: Spend two hours one evening looking up at the stars and contemplate how small--and how lucky--you are; Rather than giving your coworkers advice, humbly ask your coworkers for advice, for a change; Take a risk and humbly ask someone for help or tell them you’re hurting; Send a thank you card to humbly acknowledge a person who helped you get where you are; Anonymously do something nice for someone as a way of humbly not taking credit; Maybe even stand up for yourself as a way of showing you know the difference between humility and humiliation.
The goal is to think more deeply about how humility shows up in your life--and also how humility needs to show up in your life.
I’ll look forward to exploring these concepts and practices with you during the month of July!
More than 20 of you are participating in Building Your Own Theology. We are using the curriculum developed by Unitarian Universalist minister Richard Gilbert. Our classes have been discussion, not lecture, and together we are grappling with questions like:
What do we know for sure? What holds us together? What is holy? Are we saved? How do we account for evil? What is our place in the world? What is the role of the church? Why do bad things happen? How do we celebrate life and death?
This month, our theme is Transcendence. In the Building Your Own Theology curriculum, Richard Gilbert discusses our first source: The direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life. He reminds us of our nineteenth-century Transcendentalist forebears who believed in a direct experience of divinity. In one classic passage Ralph Waldo Emerson writes: Standing on the bare ground - my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space - all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me: I am part and parcel of God.
Gilbert asks: Are Unitarian Universalists averse to transcendence? Or do (we) religious liberals have transcendent experiences that take us beyond our surface selves and remind us that we are part of something greater than ourselves - something that brings out the best in us, that transforms our lives, transcends the ordinary, gives us a glimpse into another realm of being, and makes life worth living? Are we open to transcendent experience enough to be transformed by it?
Rather than answering those questions for all of us (which is impossible and kind of rude to do), how do you answer them? When in your life have you felt as though you have transcended your ego, desires, sense of self? Or more theistically described, when have you felt lifted up by God? And how were you transformed by those experiences? In small group gatherings throughout the month of June, we’ll be exploring this theme together.
You might be wondering about my summer schedule. In June, I will attend Pride Fest in Denver on June 21. If you are there, look for the crowd of Unitarian Universalists and join us in the parade itself. Then Pete and I will travel to Portland, Oregon for the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly (June 22 - 28). There we will join 3000 or more UUs to worship, learn, and act for climate justice. I will be on vacation June 29 - July 4. I will be with you for the first three Sundays in July, worshiping and celebrating summer! My last Sunday with you is July 19th. My last day of work will be July 24; I will take vacation from then to the end of the month. I am looking forward to quality time with you between now and then. Let’s see how many times we transcend and transform, shall we?