Common Ground

Another fair has come and gone. There was once a time where we lazily strolled through Common Ground, treating it like so many other country fairs. Once we discovered the lectures on homestaeding and slow living, we started running manic circles through Unity looking for the next best talk.

When kids came along, we continued to try to run laps through, trading responsibility for the little ones while we collected ideas to bring home. But it became clear that only insanity and discontent lived at the end of that road, and so we dedicated our time to kid activities, making sure not to stay too late.

As the world around us moves in phase, unsurprisingly, the phases of our life move in cycles. Spring yields to Summer, which gives way to Fall and eventually Winter until Spring comes again. Our fair experience has gone in a bigger cycle, one dominated by multi-year blocks, rather than the seasons. But there is as seasonality to kids, just as there are to farms. And appreciating the cycles leads me, at least, to a deep satisfaction.

That satisfaction trancends any given day or ambition.

The Righteous Mind

Table of Contents

Intuition or Groupthink

No man is an island. Bon Jovi, sure, but also simply true. Perhaps even more true that Jon imagined. Or maybe he imagined the whole thing. How would I know.

The point here, is that many of the current epidemics in our culture, be they chemical, ideological or philisophical, can be traced back to a violation of the above Bon Jovi Principle. That is, we humans were not built to exist in a vacuum. Far from it, we are some of the most socially complex creatures Earth has managed to harbor yet, and we walk around with a belief that we’re doing this all on our own.

In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt explores just how important intuition and groupthink are to the every day functioning of humans. The Enlightenment poised the well of dependence, giving rise the the thought that with enough inidvidual effort, any one human can do anything. The reality, however, seems to be that with enough group effort, humans can do anything. Individual effort is a figment of our imagination.

Off days

We’re all entitled to having off days, but it doesn’t make them any easier to work around. I woke up today without much ambition, despite the fact that we have chickens that need to be slaughtered. To add insult to injury, after we decided not to worry about slaughter, I went downstairs to discover that the toilet is not filling. There’s simply no water in the supply line. To make things weirder, the sink that’s on the same line works fine. We’ve been working thorugh issues with sediment in our well water, and it seems like this is probably related. But we really have no idea.

Yesterday was a funny day too where matters beyond my control led to me not being very responsive at work. That carries it’s own stress as deadlines loom and people expect a certain result and you have to explain why the result is not there yet. Effectively, today is a day where the rug feels slightly frayed around the edges. Life is hardly falling apart, but things are just starting to slip a little bit.

We’re all entitled to days like these, but it doesn’t make it any easier to weather, especially when working on remainig stoic about life, it can feel like a setback. That said, the feeling of discouragment is really pride. Pride that you thought you had things under control, when in reality you were never in control of the things around you, but simply your respones to the things around you. Centering in these moments involves acknowledging that all you can do is control your response and actions, and doing your best to return to those

Are you like me?

One of the aspects of my faith that I have the most difficulty with is accepting other people regardless of where they are. As a human, I like to hang with people like me. This is understandable, as tribalism exists in the world as an artifact of the world we have lived in for the last 10,000 years.

And yet, UUism calls me to be accepting of others and to encourage others in their spiritual growth. How can I be tribal and accepting of others at the same time? I think a big part of that practice is being honest with yourself about the biases you may have. I value thoughtfulness and intelligence highly. I do not place as much value on art and entertainment. It is not that I don’t like those things, but someone who orients their life around art make it immediately more difficult for me to find similarities and to enjoy their company.

The best thing I’ve found in these situations is to keep plumbing for commonality. As awkward as tribalism can be, it’s also a fantastic tool to build affinity for other people. If you can intentionally try to build a tribe with strangers, before you know it they are no longer a stranger and instead part of a new tribe that you just created. Maybe they have kids. I have kids and know that world all too well. Perhaps they have a Mormon grandmother who is difficult to be around :) Yet another opportunity to build the community that was missing before.

The trick is not to disavow the aspects of our human psychology that make us able to accept others, but use them to our advantage to grow our tribe larger, or at least increase the number of small tribes we’re a part of.

Equity

The gospel of Matthew suggests that Christ’s heaven is an equal opportunity saver. That is, it is not a place where those who worked the hardest receive the best, or those who took and never gave suffer. The parable of the vineyard laborers more or less spells out a universal salvation message for those who would be willing to work, not for how much they work. And, as a parable, that means that those who come to find love and compassion late in life are no less entitled to salvation than anyone else.

In Unitarian Universalism, this reflects very accurately what we mean in our second principle. We affirm justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Note, carefully, that we do not include equality in what we affirm. Equality is a difficult concept for humans to hold in their minds, because it suggests that everyone needs the same thing. Instead, let us focus our energy on providing justice and equity. Because the abused child may need more love and patient understanding than the child raised in a loving home. The diversity and color of conditions that humans live in exclude the possibility of anything ever being equal when it comes to love.

Instead let us strive for equity and considered justice, ensuring that needs are being met and that we are working towards making everyone whole. Indeed, laborers who did not have the advantage of being there at the start of the day deserve their full payment all the same.