Sunday, December 01, 2013

A Unitarian Universalist Church

I have recently visited a Unitarian Universalist Church. It is quite an interesting institution.  They pride themselves in being a religion that is not united by dogma (or doctrine), but rather with the ideal that God, if there is one, loves all humans. It is an concept that all humans have great value and none will be sent to hell.  I remember if my old days looking down on this view thinking how ridiculous it was and how God has to punish people in hell for justice to win.  But now I think this need for hell-fire is wishful thinking built on a mistaken and simplistic view of the world.  Not only this but hell-as-punishment makes God into either a malicious tyrant or an impotent one, but that is not the point of this post.

Back to Unitarian Universalism: what is important about us is not what we believe, but how we act.  Ah, this is extremely refreshing, and actually it reminds me of the book of James where faith is known by its actions.  One of the amazing consequences is there are UU atheists and UU theists and they get along in the same religion!  Quite interesting: a religion that accepts rationalists and atheists.  I guess it comes down to members not needing to agree in what they believe but rather in what they value. 

Someone asked me what UU sermons are if they don't have doctrines.  Well, actually not having doctrines is actually a great benefit.  Teachings cannot be justified based on a doctrine.  Instead truth has to be discovered on its own terms.  Actions aren't evil because they are condemned by a verse in the Bible, but rather because of the harm they cause to humans.  And UU communities are just like other communities with the same struggles and joys, and the need for encouragement and guidance.  So I find that I don't cringe during sermons as I used to when I hear specious arguments justifying doctrines.  Instead I find a much greater sense of humility in UU sermons along with empirically based teaching.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Reflections on a loved one dying

Three months ago she was frail but capable; going for long walks, preparing food for family, holding grand-kids, buying bargains at Costco, and giving tips on healthy living.  But those three months seem like many long years.  The cancer has metastasized. It is taking over her lungs, her body, her strength.

Breathing is painful and getting harder.  She needs constant oxygen.  Her face has turned gray and wrinkled.  The skin is taught and gaunt.  Life is seeping.  The world is spinning.  Soon it will spin beyond reach.  All we can do is wait.

It makes me feel small: like an ant living my life on a small mat floating down a great river.  I arrange my belongings, work hard, gather food, live my life.  But I know I am approaching the ocean.  It could be around any bend in the river.  And when I reach it I will be cast adrift in the boundless emptiness.

And yet, I am content.  I am content with my life, be it short or be it long.  It is already longer than I have right to demand.  I am happy for the good times.  I am even happy for the struggles.  I don't demand eternal life, or hope for the afterwards.   Yes I do have hopes and dreams and fears.  I want to achieve great things, and see my kids grow up and have kids of their own.  Those may or may not happen, but I know there will be a day when I take my last breath.  And what I want to say on that day is "I am content."

Addendum 13 April 2013:
This morning she died.  She was not afraid.  And to the end she was more concerned for the sicknesses and ailments of others than for herself.  The previous night she was giving me advice on getting over my cold/flu, while she was dying.