Monday, August 11, 2008

Faith Journal: Epiphanies

What do you believe if you are a Unitarian Universalist? The usual, sloppy UU answer is that you can believe anything you want. Well, let's hope not. You don't have to believe in a creed, thank goodness, or Jesus Christ is Lord of All, or even that there is any Lord of All. That leaves a big wide field to walk around in. Its no wonder that UU's want some kind of short cut when talking to others in this culture of the sound bite. They may even want a sound bite for themselves!

It's work to put together your own theology. Please forgive me and other UU's like me, if we haven't always done as much work as we should.

One of the pieces of my personal spiritual philosophy, is a belief in the importance of epiphanies.

I cultivate epiphanies because they are my version of a primary, spiritual experience.

An epiphany is when your world looks different after you have had an insight. A whole area of your personal world view that stood straight up before now is toppled over and points in another direction. An epiphany is Urban renewal of the soul.

Epiphanies can be dramatic. When I had the epiphany that I didn't believe in a personal God, the world was suddenly a very different place. And not necessarily a better place. In fact it was colder and lonelier. There was no going back on it though. It was a true epiphany.

In college I took a class on Existentialism and it fit my new thinking about God. I read Albert Camus's The Stranger and the Myth of Sisyphus. I learned more about this territory of no God. It was exciting, but it filled out the contours of my mind without changing it. Existentialism is pretty grim stuff but I took it in and accepted it. What else was there if there was no God?

It was another class, a hybrid English class called "What is Man?", that gave me my next epiphany.

This time we read more Camus, a book of short stories called Exile and the Kingdom. We also read Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces. I don't remember the stories well or much about Hero with a Thousand Faces. I do remember them transforming the scraped earth landscape of Existentialism into some kind of garden. I didn't return to a personal God but I did, through these wonderful stories begin to see the richness of interconnection.

The epiphany I had was that Existentialism looked at the world as if there was nothing human but individual existence. If you run a buldozer over a forest you don't have a forest anymore. The forest existed though, even if it's now destroyed. Just because you CAN get down to bare earth doesn't mean you should or that bare earth is any more real than the forest that was there originally.

I developed the conviction that the connections we have with others are real and holy even if they end, break, sometimes are false, or superficial. The sum of them hold the world together. Not only are these connections holy but we can chose them, we can increase them or we ignore or deny them.

It's a choice, like the Existentialist said, they just didn't believe that you could choose a world with color, sound and a thrumming heart.

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