Let This Be A House of Peace: Stories

Let this be our house
Of myth and lore and legend–
Our trove of ancient story,
and cradle of our tender dreams.

Unitarian Universalists have a well deserved reputation for being braniacs, geeks and other epithets which basically mean “caught in our heads.” On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with loving and exploring ideas, and we certainly do that.  Our principles encourage curiosity and taking on the role of the seeker.  Our tradition celebrates the freedom to find one’s own path and follow it even if it takes one in a direction that others are not taking, the path of “difference” as I discussed yesterday.  So, reading and discussing important ideas can be an important part of our community and life together.

One doesn’t build a house (or any other structure for that matter) by standing around the construction site discussing ideas.  While some discussion of the building process might be useful, finally, the builders have to pick up materials and tools and begin the construction of something that will last, that will sustain those who dwell there during changing weather and harmful storms.

This House of Peace that we are building is not built of ideas alone.  The building of a House of Peace, a community that sustains us and retains us together as a people, is made of stories.  The stories are always there, just waiting to be picked up, told and retold.  The stories are most likely to rise up and construct themselves in our House of Peace building by asking simple questions.  As important ideas are being bantered about, we can simply ask one another:  when do you remember that idea first appealing to you?  What were you going through in life when you began to see things this way?  Who are your heroes when it comes to this important idea?  Who have been your “teachers” when it comes to this idea? Is there an ancient story that exemplifies this idea for you?

Each question invites a story.  Personal story.  Historical story.  Relational story.  Sacred story.  Legendary story.  Ethnic story.  Mythological story.

If we allow ourselves to operate only in the realm of ideas, we remain caught in our heads and in abstraction.  It’s so easy and often so tragic the way we reduce each other to the ideas we have heard coming from each other and turn each other into abstractions as well. When, however, we call forth each other’s stories, we move out of our heads into our hearts, into our hands, into our feelings, into our memories.  Abstractions become paintings, scenery, real people.  Stories turn us into fonts of vision and prophecy, drawing on the building materials of the past while we craft this House of Peace for the future.

Watch for the next opportunity–when someone is talking ideas.  Find the moment to ask about the story underneath the idea, and let’s start building this House of Peace.

Bob Patrick

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