Thursday, May 28, 2009

Attempting to Answer the Big Questions


Yesterday I attended a meeting at the Unitarian Church that I attend in my area. It was a meeting of the "young adults, " including 20's and 30's. Also who ever is young at heart. I thought, well its down the street I might as well go although it gave me unpleasant chills thinking eeew going to a youth meeting at church, really?
A little background:
I grew up Catholic even though my birth mother was Jewish and my adopted mother was Protestant. My fathe was Catholic so that had to be the way. I remember dazing out and only coming to at my favorite place in the service, when we had to give each other the sign of peace (handshake). I liked the community feeling and many times would end up shaking the hand of this man that went there who had a disfigured hand. He always extended that hand to shake and I never backed away even when I was little. I liked the feeling of reaching out to the people around me, to extend wishes of peace and happiness.

I remember though even when I was young, questioning always questioning. Why do I need to believe this? The Catholic church did not allow room for me to question or challenge. It was only about blind faith and duty. I was confirmed Catholic to please my parents but tried to not step a toe into a Catholic church after that. My mom supported my questioning too which I am grateful for. She called us "gleamers," that we were just gleaming truths from where we could find them. She didn't hold it as important that I believe everything that a particular church/religion would have me to.

Well after this I started to do my own study in spirituality and religion. I found books in witchcraft, meditation, astrology, and generally spent my time in the New Age section in Barnes and Noble. Those summers when I was a teenager before college, my family and I would spend it on our sailboat. I learned to meditate and about healing around that time.

In college I started to research Buddhism for a school project. All of a sudden, I had it, the Aha moment! That many describe when they find some creed/set of beliefs/etc that just speaks to them, connects everything in their mind. I've taken philosophy and world religion classes but I subscribe most closely to Buddhist/Taoist beliefs. I guess this because of the focus on compassion for other human beings, non judgment, non attachment, and there respect/tolerance for other ways of thinking/beliefs. In Buddhism, life is conceptionalized like a mountain. Buddhism sees different religions as different paths leading up the mountain. They might all be different but they all end up in the same place.

I learned about the Unitarian Universalist Church when I was in Boston. One of the strongest memories I have about hearing about the UU Church was a young girl around 12 years old who I was mentoring as a part of a volunteer program. She exclaimed to another mentor with her face full of joy and happiness, "You are a Unitarian too!" Wow, I thought I never felt that way about any organized religions like that before.
Alot of the people that I was hanging out with in Boston who were really great, caring, tolerant people talked it up too.

It wasn't until I came to LA that I started to look into it. I was wanting to feel connected to a community and was wondering about how we would bring our children up. I felt it was important to have an introduction at least for our children in a religion. What ever I had against it it taught me some basic concepts of good will, do on to others, etc. I felt however that I didn't want to push my children in believing in something like I felt pushed growing up. The more I learned about UU, the more I felt comfortable with it. Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religios tradition that is open to everyone of many different faiths. At the church I go to, you may end up talking to someone who is Pagain, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, or Atheist. We don't subscribe to a dogma. The minister and visitors who also run the services, take wisdom from all different places, different religions, media, etc. I really liked what they have for the children. They have Religious Exploration which means that the children are taught about all religions. This gives them the oppurtunity to build tolerance, compassion, and decide for themselves the universal questions. Our church is very community minded and I am on the Social Action Committee.

I love that I have found a spiritual community that encourages questioning and transforation.
So I went to the meeting. There was only a small group of us, only 5 but felt it was a good introductory size. We lit the chalice, and I giggled to the group that it felt like we should hold hands and evoke something. This thankfully got a laugh, doesn't seem that we take all too seriously. We lit candles and set intentions for things that we wanted in our life or to bless someone that we were thinking of. We had a reading and then we listened to a beautiful concerto (forgetting the name). It was a powerful piece that both relaxed and energized me.

After the music we pulled out some questions that created a nice debate.

The questions were mainly around the concept that some have that "God" (insert any name, I like Spirit/Universe) gives us things if we ask. How much is it up to us and how much can we count on "God" to fulfill what we want. For me I said that it was alot about intention. If you do not have a clear idea of what you want how can you put it out there and give energy to it? You need to formulate what you want and the steps that you are willing to do. I don't think that it is like selecting things off a menu. You can't just get what you ask for. Some of the other members of the group discussed it like doorways. There are doorways all around but you have to see and use them in order for opportunities to happen. Other members thought it was important to do everything you can, make what you want clear, and then just surrendor to it. What will happen will happen.

Then there was a question about the purpose of pain/suffering in the world. This was a difficult one. I think it is dangerous to think that all the negative things that happen is a result of neg. karma or neg. thinking. This gives people the sense of powerlessness. I do feel that we are connected through pain/suffering. It ripples through the human race. If we do not have painful experiences also, we often can't connect to another's human experiences. Take the concept of method acting, in order to really get into a character, an actor has to think of a similiar experience in order to access that emotion. One of the other members of the group discussed the concept of Yin/Yang. We need both light/dark. Everything is about balance. Another thought that negative things that happen could be related to the energy that is all around us. Kind of liek the concept of the Butterfly effect.

One girl stated she felt distant from all of this. She felt that things just happen and do not always have a rhyme or reason. She statd that some people have a hard time with this concept and that it depresses them but she stated that it makes her feel free. I guess it is the age old question between free will/destiny. Are things destined to happen? I feel that we have free will but the things that we do can set in motion a certain energy, etc. that will lead us down a certain path. I do not however feel that it is prewritten for us.

This got us also on a discussion about the concept of a soul. I think I wrote some of this up in my Griffith Observatory blog entry, but I feel that we do not carry on or at least not in the way many think. I do not really conceive of a heaven. I feel that we do return to the cosmos/universe/the great ocean/spirit. While some might feel fear around this idea I feel at peace with it. I conceptionalized this for the group by asking them when they felt the happiest. I shared that I do when I am in nature or in relation to another human being. When I feel greater than just me and connected to everything else, that is when I feel the happiest, that is the greatest joy. Others could connect to this idea. They felt that our energy has been going on and on and won't stop while others felt that our energy will change form/dissipate.

We ended with a reading and blowing out the candles. I think that I made a boo boo by helping to blow it out. Ooops....Then we listened to some music. We were asked to bring a favorite art/music piece. Not many did but I had my laptop with me so I pulled it out.

I had them listen to Bright Eyes's "Waste of Paint," that really moves me every time I listen to it.

Waste Of Paint
Bright Eyes

I have a friend, he is mostly made of paint.
And he wakes up, drives to work,
and then straight back home again.
He once cut one of my nightmares out of paper.
I thought it was beautiful, I put it on a record cover.
And I tried to tell him he had a sense
of color and composition so magnificent.
And he said

"Thank you, please
but your flattery
is truly not
becoming me.
Your eyes are poor.
You're blind.
You see,
no beauty could have come from me.
I'm a waste
of breath,
of space,
of time."

I knew a woman, she was dignified and true.
And her love for her man was one of her many virtues.
Until one day, she found out that he had lied
and she decided the rest of her life from that point on would be a lie.
But she was grateful for everything that had happened.
And she was anxious for all that would come next.
But then she wept.
What did you expect?
In that big, old house
with the cars she kept.
"And such is life," she often said.
With one day leading
to the next,
you get a little closer to your death,
which was fine with her.
She never got upset
and with all the days she may have left,
she would never clean
another mess
or fold his shirts
or look her best.
She was free
to waste

Last night, my brother he got drunk and drove.
And this cop he pulled him off to the side of the road.
And he said, "Officer! Officer! You got the wrong man.
No, no, I'm a student of medicine, a son of a banker, you don't understand!"
The cop said, "No one got hurt, you should be thankful.
And your carelessness, it is something awful.
And no, I can't just let you go.
And though your father's name is known,
your decisions now are yours alone.
You are nothing but a stepping stone
on a path
to debt,
to loss,
to shame."

The last few months I have been living with this couple.
Yeah, you know, the kind who buy everything in doubles.
They fit together, like a puzzle.
And I love their love and I am thankful
that someone actually receives the prize that was promised
by all those fairy tales that drugged us.
And they still do me.
I'm sick, lonely,
no laurel tree,
just green envy.
Will my number come up eventually?
Like Love's some kind of lottery,
where you scratch and see
what's underneath.
It's "Sorry",
just one cherry,
or "Play Again."
Get lucky.

So I've been hanging out down by the train's depot.
No, I don't ride.
I just sit and watch the people there.
And they remind me of wind up cars in motion.
The way they spin and turn and jockey for positions.
And I want to scream out that it all is nonsense.
All your life's one track,
can't they see it's pointless?
But just then, my knees
give under me.
My head feels weak
and suddenly
it's clear to see
it's not them but me,
who has lost my self-identity.
As I hide behind
these books I read,
while scribbling
my poetry,
like art could save a wretch like me,
with some ideal ideology
that no one could hope to achieve.
And I am never real;
it is just a sketch in me.
And everything I made is trite
and cheap
and a waste
of paint,
of tape,
of time.

So now I park my car down by the cathedral,
where the floodlights point up at the steeples.
Choir practice was filling up with people.
I hear the sound escaping as an echo.
Sloping off the ceiling at an angle.
When the voices blend they sound like angels.
I hope there’s some room still in the middle.
But when I lift my voice up now to reach them.
The range is too high,
way up in heaven.
So I hold my tongue,
forget the song,
tie my shoe
start walking off.
And try to just keep moving on,
with my broken heart
and my absent God
and I have no faith
but it's all I want,
to be loved.
And believe,
in my soul.
In my soul.
In my soul.
In my soul.

Just reading the lyrics is powerful to me along with Connor's raw beautiful voice it makes it even more so. The song is for me is finding/and believing in your self worth and holding on to it even when life gives you no reason to. My life is not a waste even though sometimes in the past I have felt that way. I have felt I have to prove the good of my existence for some reason. I know I have the right to be loved and have good things happen for me but it has been a concstant battle really truly believing this.

So I was asked to hold the next meeting we will have, which I think will be the following Sunday on the 7th. Have no idea what I will coordinate but I'm excited.


Miss Kolleen said...

religion is such a mind- bend for me. i was raised catholic and went to catholic school for 8 years, and it really ruined me as a person. i had no faith for years and it worsened when my best friend died in 1998. only recently through therapy and really accepting the hard stuff have i learned that i really do have and want a relationship with god and do believe in the fundamentals of the religion i grew up with, but i still can't find myself able to attend church. i am drawn to many aspects of the jewish faith as well, i didn't know your birth mother was jewish (i forgot you were adopted actually). they have wonderful traditions.

Saroja said...

The word "church," "God," etc are still loaded and almost "dirty" words to me because I was pretty scarred w/ the Catholic church. But that's why I love the UU tradition. I don't think I could be happy anywhere else. You are only expected to have respect for others beliefs. You can believe what ever you do. We were singing a song today at church and in it was this line, "Questioning itself might be the answer." That we are all struggling with the big questions, we don't know the right answers and that is completely okay. I love being part of a community that supports that and my exploration. Here is hopes that you find peace in your exploration.