What if … You Matter More Than You Think?

by Jun 20, 20160 comments

(Remarks shared with the UU of Lake County on 6/19/16)

One of the things I have always admired about the Unitarian congregation around the globe is its long history of standing for justice in word and deed. 

My words for you this morning–entitled “You Matter More Than You Might Think” — were originally intended to challenge your thinking for the next chapter in your personal story, with the idea that our thoughts matter,  our words matter, and our actions matter (no matter how small) as part of the larger unfolding story.  My firm belief is that if each of us lives life full out, to our most creative potential, that we make the difference we were born to make.

I prepared a talk for this congregation a couple of weeks ago.

And this morning, I decided to take it in a wholly different direction and speak from the heart on this topic.  Not about a personal story.  But our collective story. That whether our work is large or small.. we must prepare our minds, hearts and spirits to be part of a much bigger story.

I did this because I spent the past few days looking into photos of the beautiful young faces of those gunned down in Orlando Florida.

This is after spending the past week appalled at what passes for media coverage of politics and the horrifying political rhetoric…

Then last night I listened to a song of strength and resolve sung by the Gay Mens chorus of Orange County.  Their words rang through my heart like a clarion call…    as they stood in their grief and proclaimed this:
We will not give in to fear
We will not hide
We will not be diminished by the hate of others
We choose life, not death
We choose LOVE.

The words of their song rang so true:

Like a small boat on the ocean

Sending big waves into motion 

Like how a single word can make a heart open 

I might only have one match but I can make an explosion 

We live in the most precarious and amazing time.

While the ugliest shadow of America’s psyches is on display in our political discourse, visible to all and perhaps even recognizable as it echoes hate rhetoric from ages past, attempting to cull and marginalize those who are different: our muslim and african american brothers and sisters, the LGBT community, we are also connecting, creating, imagining, innovating like never before.  Billions of us carry a television studio in our pocket–telling stories that inspire and connect.

At the same time, the political rhetoric has raised the temperature of the frightened and weak-minded.  The words bandied about have turned the anger-filled drunk to action.  Their actions have cost lives.

And we who plant gardens, who make pottery, who love the trees, who paint and write poems, who dance, who sing songs of hope and love… we KNOW we are collectively better than this.

I realized that today I must remind you of who you are: the artist, the poet, the lover… and also remind all of us together here today who we collectively can be be when we each are fully who we are.
And right now we who dance and sing may find ourselves bewildered and horrified.

This is my fight song.

I am certain of this: We who are bewildered and horrified must gather our resolve to WAGE PEACE with all our strength and hearts.

It’s possible that we are tired.

It’s possible we spend our energy in worry, fear or righteous indignation rather than preparing our minds, hearts and souls for the work ahead.

It’s entirely possible that we do not understand what is at stake.

It’s far more possible that we who are sensitive souls are simply wasting our energies bemoaning what we see happening or that we have become dispirited.

Perhaps we think “What can I do in the face of this?”  Yes, what can one person do in the face of this rising rage?
At the risk of mixing metaphors.. I will leave the ocean and boat metaphor for just a moment… and draw on a metaphor with which we in Lake County all are familiar:  Fire.

And I declare this: As the fires of ignorance hate rage–we have work to do.
Remember what happened in the Rocky, Jerusalem and Valley fires in the midst of the firestorm?

The first task is to save lives of those in the path of the flames– to be on the front lines, as the firefighters that alert, defend, and even shelter those in its path.
There, we draw and defend the line that must not be crossed.  The line of decency and civil discourse. in each and every conversation no matter how small.

We bring to conscious light the privilege and wrong-thinking.  But not with rage and fear and righteousness, which only throws gasoline on the flames, but with inquiry and love.   We do it with love and the firm solid reminder: we are better than this.   We remind people of who they really are with our art and our words and deeds.

We put out the spotfires before they become conflagrations.

We also prepare and prevent new fires from erupting.

And if the fire consumes people, places and institutions we hold dear…

We become the backfire of love, compassion, insight courage and strength that will not be silent.  And we know in our heart of hearts that WE ARE MADE FOR THESE TIMES.

This is who we are.

So back to the metaphor of sea-worthy vessels…
In 2004 when GW Bush was relected and I was completely dispirited at the thought of another four years.  I encountered the wise words of the jungian Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes for the first time.  Her “Letter to a Young Activist”  reminded me of who I was then, leading me to run for local office and begin writing.  Her message speaks to me more than even now and I would like to share a part of it with you (even if you have heard it before, I encourage you to listen with a newness):

(Note: you can get the full letter here: http://www.grahameb.com/pinkola_estes.htm)

 …Please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times…
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world.   Do not focus on that.
There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be.
Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear.
Didn’t you say you were a believer?
Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater?
Didn’t you ask for grace?
Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
…there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours.  They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

…When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Perhaps we can choose to not be bewildered…. but instead be a force of love.
A love that is firrm, passionate and fierce.
A love that has the entire creative life force as the wind at our backs
A love that can withstand the storm.

We are love, compassion, insight courage and strength that will not be silent in the face of hate but will stand for justice.

We are a love that knows  human rights / civil rights are all or nothing–not just for the privileged few.
Yes, we can shine like souls on deck with the two most powerful weapons ever known:  compassion and insight.
One conversation at at time.  One stand at a time.
We can be our most awakened soul shining on deck for all to see.

We will not give in to fear
We will not hide
We will not be diminished by the hate of others
We choose life, not death
We choose LOVE.

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