Thursday, September 22, 2011

The First Principle is the Hardest. . .

Most of the members of our household are Unitarian Universalists. Now, there are a whole lot of people out there who don't know what those are - which is a little stunning to me, given UU history, but not so odd when I think back and realize that at one time I myself didn't know a whole lot about UUism. What I have always known, however, is that Unitarian Universalism is a mainstream religion, so it does absolutely confound me when people insist on believing otherwise.

So, I'd like to take a moment to discuss UU history and values.

Unitarian Universalism was created by the merger of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961.

Unitarianism had been in Europe since the mid-1500s, and in America since the early 1800s. There have been many famous American Unitarians, among them Paul Revere, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Quincy Adams, and Louisa May Alcott.

Universalism became popular in the late 1700s; English Universalists fled to America to escape religious persecution, and the movement took off. A few Universalist names you might recognize include Clara Barton, John Murray, and P.T. Barnum.

The Unitarian and Universalist denominations were both Christian. Because both organizations eschewed dogmatism, however, the consolidation led to a more inclusive approach to religion. Now, you may meet Unitarian Universalists who are Christian, Jewish, atheist, Muslim, or of any other belief system. Unitarian Universalism is a popular choice with families whose members come from more than one religious background, because it does not require that anyone relinquish long-held beliefs or customs. In fact, it honors the religious traditions of its members. Anyone who wants to can attend Passover, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or other religious holiday services, and no one is pressured to attend any of them.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the lack of a creed means that Unitarian Universalists as a whole have no value system. Unitarian Universalism congregations "affirm and promote" seven principles. Those are:

*The inherent worth and dignity of every person

*Justice, equity and compassion in human relations

*Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations

*A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

*The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large

*The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

*Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The first principle is the hardest for me to internalize. Then again, as a Christian I've always believed that I should love my enemies, and I've always struggled with that one, too. I think that most people who are honest will admit to some difficulty recognizing the inherent worth of others sometimes; furthermore, how much inherent worth a person has, or what it means to love, isn't always clear - and sometimes it's easier to plead ignorance or argue minimums than it is to work at recognizing and loving.

I do admit to bristling a bit when people hurl ridiculous comments out about Unitarian Universalism. For instance, when I hear that my beliefs are dangerous or unhealthy or wrong or one of the other ways the insult is often worded, I would love to respond with, "Um, so you don't believe that every person has worth and dignity? Or maybe the problem is that we shouldn't be compassionate? Or do you take issue with peace and freedom?"

But I don't. Instead, I blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Story I Promised and More

The Story

Okay, remember how I promised a cool little synchronicity story? Well, here it is:

Not too long ago, my son and I were traveling by car and I got us lost. Really lost. Like, we'd only been about five minutes from home when I thought I'd take a simpler route back to the main road we needed and we ended up driving for almost an hour.

I drove us through every little town in the area - many of which I'd heard of, but had never actually been to. The roads we traveled were mostly residential, so I wasn't able to pop into 7-11 and ask for directions. Panic was starting to set in when one of us changed the radio station. And here's what we heard, courtesy of Bob Marley:

Don't worry about a thing.
Every little thing's gonna be all right.
No, don't worry about a thing.
Every little thing's gonna be all right, now.

I started to laugh, and I looked at my son and said, "I wonder if he's singing that to me." Now, it had been a long time since I'd heard the song, so I really didn't know what was coming next (though I admit the lyrics may have been buried in my subconscious).

"Mom," said my son a minute later. I glanced over and he nodded toward the radio.

This is my message to you.

Just then we had to merge onto a multilane thoroughfare, which always makes me nervous. But traffic was fairly clear and I had no trouble navigating, and as soon as we were on the road, I saw an exit sign to a highway I recognized. I made the right guess when I had to choose between going left or right, and we were home between ten and fifteen minutes later.


Other News

I saw a new doctor this week, and the story behind that appointment is itself more than a little synchronistic. Turns out that one of the very few experts in the world in sodium channel disorders is only five minutes down the road from me. Really. He's in a business park right beside Walmart.

I got his name from a woman on a periodic paralysis listserve who drives her daughter up from North Carolina to see him. When I told him I got his name from a woman who drives in from North Carolina, he said, "Oh, that's not the farthest. Hmm, what's the farthest? One person comes in from a ship on the Caribbean. Oh, and one guy comes in from Utah."

I deal with symptoms for almost fifteen years before I get a diagnosis, and when I do get one, for something very rare, I'm just a stone's throw away from one of the most experienced doctors in the field? Amazing.

Two other really cool things about the appointment: the doctor was really nice, and getting on the schedule didn't take long at all. Most neurologists around here seem to have to schedule three months out or more.

The good doctor really seemed to understand what I was saying about my shoulder, and he also has a theory about why even deep tissue massage doesn't seem to have an effect: he thinks the muscle worst affected runs under my shoulder blade.

He's adding to my medication, and although he said that whether it would help is pretty much a crapshoot (my word, not his), I'm really hoping this will do it. Hey, much stranger things have happened to me than taking medications that have worked as expected, right?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Angst, Anger, Love, Hope Reviewed by Philadelphia Stories!

The review can be seen here.

I'm very excited. The only thing that would make this better is if reviews ran in the print version of the journal. I don't think they do; there weren't any in the summer issue, at any rate.

But still - Philadelphia Stories! That's a fairly big deal.

I wonder if this technically bumps me from obscure poet to minor poet? That would be sweet.

I'm still planning on adding the cool story I mentioned earlier, but I also still don't know when. I've been doing a bit more editing lately, so I haven't been up to doing much more than clearing out my email each day - and I've only done that to keep the job manageable.