“A discovery isn’t something you make alone, not really—it always has to be confirmed by someone else, whether you’re doing an experiment or making an observation or building a new theory about how the universe works. Truth doesn’t belong to any one scholar: it requires all of us.”
—from The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, by Olivia Waite
As we approach the July 4th holiday—Independence Day—my mind has wandered, as it usually does, to the 7th of our Unitarian Universalist principles: We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
While our 1st principle affirms the worth and dignity of each individual, the 7th reminds us that we are not rigidly independent of one another. Rather, we are interconnected and therefore interdependent with one another and with all of life.
From my spot on the chancel during the June 30th “Pride and Prejudice” worship service (listen here!), I looked around at the many bodies filling that room, and I wept tears of gratitude and love and affection, as I recalled moments of connection and healing and laughter and tenderness with so many of you. And I looked at the whole body, marveling at what a beautiful, powerful being we are in our interconnected, interdependent wholeness.
How could anyone ever tell you you were anything less than beautiful? Indeed.
As my summer break begins, I am craving solitude, which is a critical element of my nourishment and renewal. But I don’t want to be alone forever, nor even for very long. I love my work with you, and I will look forward to returning to it in August, as we anticipate changes and growth and experiments in our many ministries.
In these musings about solitude and the fallacy of independence, I’ve been thinking about the 2012 Berry Street Essay, delivered to a gathering of UU religious professionals. In that lecture, the Rev. Fred Muir warned that “Unitarian Universalism’s gospel is good news, [but] it is losing its vitality and relevance.” He credited (blamed?) a “trinity of errors” that have led to ineffectiveness and an inability to share our message. The first of those errors, he said, is “a persistent, pervasive, disturbing and disruptive commitment to individualism that misguides our ability to engage the changing times.” And, he says later, “We cannot do both covenant and individualism; individuality, yes, but not individualism.” (You may read the full text of Rev. Muir’s lecture on the UUMA website (From iChurch to Beloved Community: Ecclesiology and Justice), or an abridged version published by UUWorld (The end of iChurch).)
So, as I settle down for some time of rest and reflection, I’m going to be holding these questions about how we both honor the individual and do covenant. I know that, as astronomer Lucy Muchelney says of scientific discovery in the quote above*, the truth of spiritual insight and wisdom also requires all of us, in covenanted community.
Yours with love,
* This book is the first of my summer reads. Full disclosure: It’s a lesbian romance story that contains at least one scene with literal bodice-ripping. It’s well-written and has strong feminine lead characters, but I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s mostly fun and probably qualifies as trash to readers who are more discerning than I.