March 17, 2014
Minister’s Column – April 2014
I now serve in the First Unitarian Church of Saint Louis. In 1922 a child of our church, who had grown into a significant adult poet, wrote:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
These lines, the beginning of T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, capture the ambivalence of this month. Always it is a mixture of ice and heat, sprouts and snow. The point, I think he meant to say, is not that April is cruel but that all life is a difficult mixture. The poem as a whole speaks to the uncertain inconsistency of human existence.
In my last year of high school, I stood with some UU youth looking at a particularly lovely sunset. The colors, twilight blue, saffron and electric orange, layers of black and yellow, all moved me. I said that it seemed as though I had lived my life just for the chance to be part of that beauty and peace. A good friend of mine scoffed and said “That is ridiculous.” I realized then, though I was content and looking toward college, he was not sure he could even endure another month with his abusive father and alcoholic mother. As I saw the poignant beauty of life in balance, he saw life tipping toward the fearful darkness and cold of winter. Seeing the change in my face, he said, “You don’t need me as a friend. I will just pull you down.” Although I could not find the words to say it, I knew I needed him. I realized how he deepened my happiness. He made my joy in life saner and more grounded. I hoped my friendship helped him also, to see something beyond his own circumstances into the larger circles of hope.
This is how it is. While some look forward to blossoms and new life rising in Saint Louis, like people in most cities, we know there are also bullets planted in guns that will end someone’s life this spring. While some are facing homelessness and endings, others are riding the slow wave of a growing economy. That is why the UU church exists, to bring us all together in community in order to find true beauty beyond mere prettiness.
So may it be, that we find with each other, a rich and poignant and fearsome wholeness. Or, as the poet William Blake wrote several hundred years ago, “Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul divine…”
March 2, 2014
Since I was a youth four images of The Beginning have lived side-by-side in my thoughts. All weave together fact and fiction into the mythos of the genesis of all things. I quote them here in order of influence:
The first is the Jewish, as adopted by Christians and translated in the NIV:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
The second is from the Dao De Ching as I have memorized it:
1- The Way that can be told is not the eternal Way. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name. Named, It is the beginning of ten-thousand things. Nameless, it is the beginning of heaven and earth. Ever desiring we know manifestations. Without desire we know mystery. These two are different, but arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.
The third is from Christian scriptures, the “Gospel of John,” NIV:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The fourth is my summary of various science sources:
In the beginning was the singularity. The singularity was without form, or time or space. Any description of the singularity is not the singularity. Then, the singularity moved, and it expanded into a universe. At first this expansion was immensely rapid; gravity and particles were formed, radiation and elements, then it slowed to dust and heated to stars and cooled to planets and vast spaces, and the wonder of life.