‘We must put our humanity first for humanity to survive.’
We were each born at a specific time, in a specific place, into a family, clan, tribe, country, nation, ethnicity, culture and language. All of these were coupled with traditions that emanate from the beginnings of human history. But the conflict we see today arises when we place these specifics and traditions before our humanity. We must put our humanity first for humanity to survive.
We human beings are unlike anything else we know of in creation so far. We are living things, animals, with choice. As we evolved we created beliefs from what we could see. We attributed godly powers to nature and the heavens. As we developed, we created gods who lived ‘in the heavens above’ and then a single God, the Sun, until the ‘Copernican revolution’ opened our eyes to see more.
We are each called to rise above our beginnings, and add to creation with our unique, temporary, and necessary existence. Necessary because we are each necessary to each other, none of us an island, as John Donne poetically extols. We are all part of the main. And we are all interconnected, to each other and to creation.
To survive, we must stop asking ‘What can I expect from life?’ and start asking ‘What does life expect of me?’
How can I do that? I can’t change life, Marcus Aurelius’ Serenity Prayer suggests, but I can pray for the wisdom to know what I can change. I need to ask at any given moment ‘Who am I and what am I called to do?’
When can I do this? In silence, listening to and observing my own thoughts and behaviour, and that of others, without reaction or judgment.
Where can I best do that? In my experience, in Meeting for Worship. I need to practice this in community.
The more points of view I hear, the broader I see. I begin to experience that of God in everyone. I begin to see from creation’s perspective, and the view can be breathtaking.
In his ‘Varieties of Religious Experience’ lectures (1901-1902) William James concluded: ‘There is a certain uniform deliverance in which religions all appear to meet. It consists of two parts: an uneasiness and its solution. The uneasiness, reduced to its simplest terms, is a sense that there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand. The solution is a sense that we are saved from the wrongness by making proper connection with the higher powers.’
We are each called to experience the infinite and eternal within us, then to go about doing ordinary things in our daily ephemeral lives. We are each called to life by creation, with our unique human capacity to stop, look, and listen – to become ‘practical mystics’ as Jennifer Kavanagh has it, and unite with an invisible power, greater than us, beyond the visible creation from whence we came.
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