For the next six weeks, Jane Everham will be sharing reflections on the Six Sources of Unitarian Universalism. Read her first post here, and check the blog next Tuesday for Source #2.
UU First Source – 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.
I once heard someone say, “Experiencing spirituality in nature is easy.” The tone was derogatory, as if nature lovers take the easy way out. My response was, “So what? Does spirituality need to be hard?”
Nature needs us now more than ever, and if more people experience the mystery and wonder of nature then all the better for the planet. And its inhabitants.
But what else is meant by transcending mystery and wonder? Is there more to it than enjoying and being renewed by nature? And what about the 1st Source’s call to “openness to the forces which create and uphold life,” where does that fit? According to Sara Smalley, a U.U. Seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School, our First Source is “the sacred text upon which our faith is built: not a hard-bound book, but the testament of our own lives.” Huh? Anybody thinking, “What, me? My life is a sacred text?”
Time to ponder.
My pondering takes me back to my 34 years as a school psychologist in the public schools. A large part of my job was evaluating children to help determine why they were struggling to learn in school. I was one-on-one with kids for up to three hours during an evaluation. I was close-up – in their face. And let me tell you there is nothing as beautiful as the face of a child.
All children? Yes.
Close-up, all kids are perfection in some way – in the shape of a facial feature, an innocent expression, or a question that is startlingly honest. I loved watching them think, struggle with a question, problem-solving puzzles, or even try to manipulate themselves out of a task. Was my involvement with children the direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder?
I worked with programs serving the severe and profoundly disabled children attending public school. Teaching disabled children is a calling with its own set of rewards, far different from what classroom teachers experience. I watched in wonder at the love, compassion, and tireless care these teachers poured out on their students. When a teacher throws a class party because a ten-year-old finally learned to recognize his name – you know you are in a special realm – the realm of openness to the forces that create and uphold life, maybe?
I believe mystery and wonder and the forces that create and uphold life are all around us, and we just need to have our antenna out to experience them. Our busy lives tend to create too much mental clutter and static. Remember the car wash sign that says, “Collapse your antenna to avoid damage.” Sometimes we need to “pull in” our spiritual antenna as an act of self-preservation, and sometimes life collapses it, but committing to fully extending your spiritual antenna is the way you will catch mystery and wonder.
The testament of my own life as a sacred text? That is still hard to fathom, but when I link it to the beloved community and think of it in terms of “our lives” – the basis of our faith is the testament of our lives, my life does begin to resemble wonder and mystery.