Sundry

Resistance Fatigue

pexels-photo-918778.jpegAs we lead up to the 2018 Mid-term elections (remember to vote!), I struggle with the violence and hate I see in the news. A white, right-wing terrorist sent bombs through the mail to the political ‘enemies’ of our current president. Two African Americans were shot at a grocery store in Kentucky. There are continued threats against the legal protections of our transgender and non-binary siblings. There is relentless misinformation and threats spreading about immigrants and asylum-seekers. And on Saturday, October 27th, a gun-loving anti-Semite opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh during their worship service killing 11 people and wounding several others.  As Unitarian Universalists, these incidents (and culture that breeds them) threaten our values. We are called to speak out, to challenge the hate, to make a difference.

Resistance fatigue is a concept for activists dealing with an overload of stress, of being in an unending cycle of fighting against injustice. With so much happening and so many cries for support and attention, people are beginning to feel overwhelmed as the abnormal slowly becomes normal.

How do you stay engaged? How do you combat resistance fatigue? I have been thinking about this a lot (and listening a lot, and reading a lot, and feeling a lot.) Here are some tips I have found.

First: if you want to stay engaged, you need to occasionally back away. But it is a two-part process. Take a break as you need to AND don’t give up. I’ve seen the reminder of how a choir can learn to stagger breaths so the notes are sustained but everyone can rest. You don’t need to attend every rally, re-post every news story, and work every phone bank. In the Pirkei Avot, a collection of rabbinic teachings, it says “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Take a break so you can stay engaged for the long haul.

Second: Be mindful of what you consume. Think of the news like food. It is the nourishment your mind needs to survive. Sensationalized news is like candy, it will cause rot. A balanced diet is best, fill your plate from different news sources and different perspectives. Seek out news about art and science if you feel inundated by politics and social issues. Seek out a deeper version of the headline that upsets you. Be aware of the impact news has on you.

And Third: Listen more. Give a little extra attention to the voices of vulnerable people. Listen to people’s fears; try to hear the unspoken fears behind the news. Amplify the voices from the margins. Part of what you’ll gain is an appreciation that you are not alone and that your part matters.

As Unitarian Universalists, our values lead us to engage with the world, to support the vulnerable, and to speak out for truth and for justice. It is not easy or simple. It can be overwhelming. But we are in this together. And together we will persevere.

Carrying the Flame Forward

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Chalice Lighting for Ingathering 2018 (in four voices)        “Carrying the Flame Forward”

 

Voice One, Elder (with chalice)

Across the generations we have carried the flame.

We fought the injustice, sang the songs, spoke for truth, and built something lasting.

We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.

(pass chalice and mic to next speaker)

 

Voice Two, Active Leader (with metal candle lighter/snuffer)

Across the generations we are tending the flame.

Hand in hand together we share in the work of fighting injustice, singing the songs, speaking the truth

And we are here to build something lasting.

We join in the line and we carry the flame forward

(pass the chalice, candle lighter, and mic to next speaker)

 

Voice Three, Young Adult (with candle)

Across the generations we have been nourished by this flame.

We are singing new songs, breaking old barriers, sharing in the work

And as we find our own space in what has been, we are here to make space for the next person as well

We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.

(set up the chalice and candle on the table, pass the lighting stick and mic to next speaker)

 

Voice Four, Family with Young Child (with fire)

Across the generations, this flame comes to us.

We are here for the songs, for the justice, for the community sharing the work

We are here now, too, to build something new and lasting. We are ready for a new day together.

We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.

(Light the chalice)

 

Asking Deep Questions Together

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Asking deep questions together

We stood in a room together, a bunch of spiritual seekers asking question about God and life, love and death, meaning and the things that matter most. We stood together in the room and started to move. This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions. Do you believe in God? We moved along the lines between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and asked each other what we meant by the word ‘God.’ This is just something we do from time to time.

Do you believe people are basically good or basically bad? We shift ourselves around the room; and explore the realities we each know of life. Where do we fit in? And how do we respond to the events of our day?

What about your values? Which value is most important: Truth, Goodness, Beauty, something else? We move around the room together and wonder at this life we are living. How can you be on the opposite side of the room and yet agree with me? How can you be in my corner and yet not see my point? Some people circle the room, not ready to stay in only one corner, with only one answer.

This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions. We stand, we speak, we listen, we move.  What happens when you die? With whom or what have you made your biggest promises? What is the line between justice and forgiveness?

Then at the end of the day, we let those deep questions rest a while and we just live our lives. We dance, read poems, sing, and tell stories. We check in with each other about relationships and health concerns. At times we sit alone or in pairs silently. And sometimes, love holds us close as we cry. But mostly we just go about the day.

Then, another morning comes, perhaps today is one of those mornings, and we find ourselves in a room together asking questions. This is what we do around here. We move around the room together, asking deep questions.

The Blessings of Community

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by Rev. Douglas Taylor

9/26/04

 

Alone in the world, I was beset with frustration and anger at the world around me: so much injustice and hatred, so little peace and freedom.  I longed to make a difference; I struggled against the powers and institutions.  But my actions seemed insignificant and my words were drowned out.

Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love.  Here I found support and energy, vision and power, and the authority of shared witness.

And together we changed the world.

Alone in the world I was beset by sorrow and hurt in my life: so much loss and emptiness, so little hope and understanding.  I wept for the pain in my heart; I ached from hardships I bore.  But my tears brought little relief and my burdens grew unwieldy.

Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love.  Here I found support and compassion, wisdom and grace, and the power of shared suffering.

And together we made life sweeter.

Alone in the world, I was beset by confusion and vapidity in my soul: so much busyness and pettiness, so little depth or connection.  I shriveled inside for want of real spiritual bonds and my soul cried out for meaning.

Then I came into community, a religious community of hope and love.  Here I found support and encouragement, depth and diversity, and power of sharing the journey.

And together we saved my life.

For all the varied reasons that brought us out of loneliness and into community, we give thanks.  For the blessings we each bestow on one another with our energy, compassion, and prayer, we give thanks.  For the blessings we become to others in need we give thanks, and remember that we are not alone.

 

          This meditation was published in the Skinner House 2005 meditation Anthology, For All That is Our Life

Prayer for Hope

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