It’s such a valuable and wide-ranging admonition — offered perhaps most often to children as we teach them how to safely cross the street or follow directions or navigate rough terrain or adequately grasp details in the assigned reading so they can pass a literature exam.
But it’s an admonition for all of us, not only children. In our Quest (for Adults!) class this week, we talked about the Unitarian Universalist principles, and — recognizing that all of them are important and don’t need to compete with each other — each of us was invited to name the one principle that most resonates with us right now. Along with a couple other people, I named #4 — We affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
That principle is a reminder to me to remain humble and open to new insights and wisdom and truths. And it’s an ideal — not a practice that I’ve perfected (yet)! If I’m truly committed to it, then I must pay attention. No longer a child, I take for granted the information and knowledge I’ve already accumulated over this lifetime, which lulls me too often into complacency about being well- and fully-informed, which simply isn’t true in every circumstance. I must continue to pay attention.
Recently I had a clarifying conversation with a member of UUCC who noted that, in a large group (like a worshiping congregation), they’re skilled at focusing on a single person and recognizing what that individual’s needs are, unlike me (Paige), who in a group situation is more skilled at sensing the needs of the group as a whole. We talked about how important, in relationship, it is for us to share our perspectives and learn from each other.
Just today I had an eye exam — my first in more than two years — and accepted the recommendation to purchase prescription lenses. Just for reading, for now, but nonetheless a humbling reminder that I need different tools and supports than I used to if I’m going to be able to see clearly the full spectrum of what needs to be seen.
If I value being able to read the books that carry me on escapist adventures, and to appreciate the splendid detail of Mother Nature’s spring magic, and to follow the minuscule print of my mother’s photocopied recipes … then I need to accept the doctor’s prescription for corrective lenses.
I require correction for my limited vision. It’s an obvious metaphor, isn’t it? In other ways, my vision — and not only my eyesight — is limited, merely because I’m human. And if I value, as I do, the importance of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, then I must be able to see. Which means I must accept corrective tools when they’re needed. And I must use them.
Note to self: Pay attention.
* I hope you’re already aware of the Community Ecology Institute and the effort to build a Community Ecology Center on the property of the old Shaw Farm in Columbia. I toured the property recently and am very excited about its potential impact in our broader community. The center will offer education about farm preservation, sustainability, climate action, and more — including an emphasis on the African-American heritage that’s rooted on its property and in its neighborhood. Right now they’re facing a May 15th fundraising deadline (to purchase the farm). I just made a personal contribution. Perhaps you’d like to join the effort? If so, click here to donate.