In Unitarian-Universalism, we gather ourselves and our faith around seven Principles. Our Principles are not religious dogma in content. They are ethical principles in that they embody rather explicitly the things we value. They allow us to bring stories and content both religious and otherwise to them to help us reflect on how to live their wisdom. As such, they are or can be points of return for us. I think of points of return as those places, ideas, people and memories to which we return to find our center, to find our moorings, to find the clarity we need in order to make decisions, to move forward, to create.
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
In our weekly welcoming words at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett, members and visitors alike will hear these words:
Wherever you are on your life’s journey, whether you believe in the god, the goddess, many gods, no god, god in all things or all things in god; if you are spiritually wounded and seeking refuge or celebrating the present moment, you are welcome here.
Those words were crafted with the seventh principle in mind. We know that people have a variety of experiences that we call things like community, communal, transcendent, spiritual, interpersonal, religious, numinous, altered-state, cosmic, holistic, generative, personal, redemptive, grace-filled, salvific as well as others.
Long ago I was given the insight that theology is anthropology. That is, what we know, think, experience and believe about being human reflects, always, into any and everything that we know, think, experience and believe about the Ultimate.
As I sit writing this, I am looking out the window at the woods behind our house. The afternoon sun is touching the leaves of the still green trees at an angle that communicates to me that the end of the day is near. Butterflies feast on the flowers in our yard. Birds are scampering from limb to limb. I know that a myriad of processes are taking place in this vista: photosynthesis, decomposition, fertilization, and feeding, to name a few. Just as I wrote that last phrase, I heard the katydids begin their evening song. I also feel a presence, a livingness, a vibrancy that is rushing through and sustaining all of this that I can see, hear, and smell.
What to call it? Organic process. Nature. The Goddess. The God. Spirit. Life. The Interdependent Web of all Existence.
Of which we are a part.
I am so glad that this principle is the last one in our list. It is, for me, the ultimate return. Wherever I turn, the Interdependent Web is always there. When I look out on these woods, the Web is there. I am a part. When I go with my beloved family on our visits to New York City and I am caught in the near shoulder to shoulder crowd on the streets, the Web is there. I am a part. When I walk into my classroom and students fill it up, the Web is there. I am a part. When I touch another human hand, hold my beloved pet, smell a flower that grows in my yard, catch sight of a cloud in the sky, see the tear form in another’s eye, hear the sound of a child’s curiosity, see the man on the side of the road with the sign–homeless, need help: The Web is there.
I am a part.