I Open

The invitation to take a look at pluralism after our theme of interdependence as an idea but then to consider what it means to practice it, live it, engage it has me returning again and again to the invitation to open. Pluralism surely causes us to notice differences, but in the process, we begin to see similarities as well. I wrote a few weeks ago about opening as doorways, and then the next week about opening and closing. Recently, these words came to me while I was sitting out on the edge of the woods in the very early morning.

I open to the sky.
I open to the sea.
I open to the earth
living around me.

I open to my tree friend.
I open to all the trees.
I open to birdsong
and birds singing on the breeze.

I open to the sun
rising in the East.
I open to the moon
phases never cease.

I open to the clouds.
I open to the stones.
I open to the winds
dancing round my bones.

I open fields of healing.
I open fields of love.
I open fields of wisdom
descending from above.

I open fields of kindness.
I open fields of strength.
I open fields of belonging
to embrace the cosmos’ length.

I open heart and mind.
I open spirit and breath.
The day’s work has begun
a good life, a good death.

~Bob Patrick

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Let’s Talk Body Parts

Our human bodies offer us a powerful metaphor of life as we know it.

Think of your knee. If it is working for you, it flexes the lower leg up off the ground, hurling your foot toward your backside, and then it extends that same foot out in front of you so that it can land on the ground before starting that process all over again.  A working knee makes walking, running, standing, sitting and squatting all possible. Many of us know how a non-working knee interferes with all of those movements!

But, my knees don’t do anything (that I know of) toward nourishing my body. My mouth takes in food, but my teeth chew it, and my throat swallows it. My esophagus carries it to my stomach which further digests it into usable nutrients which my small intestines begin to move out into my bloodstream. My arteries and veins move my blood around carrying nutrients to every cell in my body. You get the picture. So many DIFFERENT parts of me are required to make life for me happen. Choosing one part (like a knee) over another part (like the stomach) makes no sense at all. Movement is necessary, one way or another, for life, and so is nourishment and yet they are different things.

I am not the first to think of this body analogy. The Roman historian, Livy, repeats a story in which the various body parts go on strike against the stomach. They claimed the stomach enjoyed all the benefits of food without doing any of the work. They all refused to help bring food to the stomach. Before long, it became apparent to them all that the stomach played a vital role in feeding all of the body parts, and that their life and death was mutually assured by how they worked together. 

In the Christian scriptures in the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul takes up a similar analogy to a church that was in trouble with inner conflict. The eye cannot dismiss the hand, nor can the head get rid of the feet. Paul acknowledges that often the smaller and seemingly inferior parts of the body have the most to contribute (pancreas or thyroid come to mind!)
We can (and do) gather up all the differences that we see in each other and those around us, and even with all of them delineated in strong contrast, the fact is that we depend on one another. Our existence, our life, our well being, our past, present and future–are all fabric in the interdependent web.

~Bob Patrick

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Something New

When something new comes along, it requires adjustment, doesn’t it? It was certainly true for me in the field of education. A new software program for teacher gradebooks, or a new approach to working with learning disabilities, or something much closer to my heart and mind: new and better ways to helps students acquire a second language. All of those were examples of “new things” that came along all the time. Add to that new people in the department or administration or school board and it was, if we were honest, almost constant adaptation to new things and people. We might find ourselves groaning to “get back to normal” in the face of so much constant change.

We live in a culture that would like us to think that there is a set way of doing things that we call normal, and we all should learn to settle into that set way, into normal. Never mind if the set way serves one group of people better or over another. Never mind if it doesn’t actually allow for some people to exist, have a voice, be seen or enjoy the rights and privileges that everyone else does. This is the way we do things, so get with it or get out. None of this has to be said very often. It is understood. There is normal and there is . . . abnormal.

I never thought of pluralism as a gift, but this is it, I think. It’s the reminder that nothing is ever really set or normal unless you are crunching data on a spreadsheet. Things and people are always changing, revealing aspects of themselves that seem new but which were always there (which the data didn’t and couldn’t account for). Settling into the set ways of doing things NEVER helps me grow as a person. In fact, just the opposite: settling into the set way insures that I will not grow. But, something new, someone new, a new perspective, a new way of understanding what it means to be human–that challenges me to change and to grow along with the something new.

Here’s the leap for me. Maybe you will see yourself here, too. While I am learning to embrace the new and see it as a way for us all to grow together, I may be prone to push back in the subconscious hope that we can all just settle into “normal.” What I have found is that every time I do that, I cause harm. And when I see that over my shoulder, looking back, it breaks my heart. The gift of pluralism invites me to let go of normal and embrace the wonders of everyone and everything, even those that I have not encountered yet.

~Bob Patrick

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Little Dragon, You Are Welcome Here

Bob and I are grandparents to a little dragon – Orion Xialong. Orion for the constellation and mighty hunter. Xialong for a tiny dragon, the Chinese  year into which he was born. To say he is everything is just a small piece of what we feel for this miracle.

We are keeping him in May while Miriam finishes teaching out the school year. His dad is out of town for 3 weeks. We are more than happy to help. We love him like they do. We are both retired. The pool is closed for renovation so I can’t swim anyway. Bob can schedule his meetings around feeding schedules and I can grade papers at night after he is picked up. 

We raised 3 children. “We’ve done this before”, we said. We love this tiny baby with all our hearts…we’ve got this. And we do

After 30 years though it is a bit different. The muscles, bones and energy levels are 30 years older now. The ‘breast milk in a bottle’, while working, is not what this tiny dragon prefers. We don’t smell like mom and dad. We don’t have the same aura. We sing different songs. We are familial and he knows that we love him. We are still not mom and dad. In short, we are absolutely and utterly exhausted at the end of every single day.

However, while we have this tiny dragon we are sending him everything that is inside of us to let him know that ALL of his bits and pieces, ALL of his soul and heart, ALL of his future dreams and desires, are welcome here. We wish courage and joy and steadfastness. We are here for the hard edges and soft spots. All of it. It’s all welcome. 

~Lydia Patrick

Come One, Come All
Ian W. Riddell

Come one, come all!
Come with your missing pieces and your extra screws
Come with your hard edges and your soft spots
Come with your bowed heads and upright spines
Come all you flamboyant and drab
verbose and quiet fidgeting and lethargic
All you with large vision and tender hearts
All you with small courage and tender fears
Bring your lisp and your stutter and your song
Bring your gravel and your drawl and your lilt
Bring your anger and your joy and your righteous indignation
Misfits and conformists and everyone in between
Come into this space and be welcome
Bring who you are
Bring where you’ve traveled
Bring what you long for
and let us worship together

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Spiritual Pluralism

When I was growing up with my mom I was surrounded by many people in my life that had different views on religion. My grandparents were Buddhist, my friend’s mother was a Seventh Day Adventist, and my sister and I would go to church with them. I had friends that were Catholic, Jewish and just you know… Christian in general. 

One day while “practicing” fishing I announced to my sister and our friends that I was Buddhist and would start practicing Buddhism. I was ridiculed and told I would be going to hell if I did that. 

At that age I got mad, broke down crying and ran off. I continued to attend the Seventh Day Adventist Church with my friend during the school year, and in the summer when I spent time with my grandparents I’d go to the Buddhist temple and chant. Why couldn’t I do both? 

When I moved in with my dad all that changed and I was no longer able to practice Buddhism. We went to a small Southern Baptist Church and my father was a staunch born again Christian. I spent six years in my own dark ages not being able to discover other religions. 

I now feel like I’ve had a late start in discovering my own spiritual self. I started practicing solitary Wicca fifteen years ago and five years ago started practicing Druidism with the Sylvan Sanctuary Druids at UUCG. Everyday I discover new spiritual practices from other religions that align with my values or offer me the opportunity to look deeper into myself to strengthen my spiritual beliefs.
In a way I practice spiritual pluralism, I think a lot of people do without really realizing it. 

~Candice C Carver

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Practicing Pluralism

I just returned home from attending the Beltane service with the Druids at UUCG. I don’t consider myself to be a practicing Druid per se. I have visited various rituals with the Druids for my own curiosity and education as a Unitarian Universalist. I am aware that many in the Druid group are polytheistic, however in my beliefs I am monotheistic. I also believe that the Divine is both masculine and feminine, and neither. I find God or the Divine difficult to define, yet the mystery is incredibly intriguing when I look up at the stars or enjoy time in nature near sources of water.

This exploration has been eye-opening to me as I embrace my Unitarian Universalist faith. I was raised Southern Baptist, but I now know that I was UU in my heart ever since I started talking to God/the Divine as a child in the woods behind my house. Although I feel differences between my beliefs and those of my Druid friends, I still enjoy the communion that comes with being embraced by the Druids at UUCG.

I have been pondering what pluralism means to me and my experience at the Beltane ritual. I think is it in action. Exploring and considering possibilities beyond what we ‘know’ is a way of opening up our hearts to fresh ideas, inspirations and energy. I chose to focus my energy and thoughts at Beltane on my renewal of energy and life. I’ve been struggling with bipolar depression throughout the pandemic and beyond, but the Druid ritual helped to start the healing of my mind, body and spirit. Blessed Be. 

~Jen Garrison

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Infertile Dreams for Mother’s Day

I struggle with infertility, often in silence. The emotions and experiences that are present as Mother’s Day approaches are full of joy and pain. This day can serve as a sharp reminder of unfulfilled dreams and the deeply personal sorrow of being unable to conceive. The celebration of motherhood, while beautiful and deserving, can inadvertently deepen my feelings of isolation and exclusion.

During this celebration I open myself to the potential space for recognizing not only those who are mothers but also those who wish to be, as well as those who play significant nurturing roles—be they aunts, mentors, teachers, or friends. An inclusive approach can bring attention to the complex narratives of adoptive mothers, foster mothers, and those who have chosen not to have children or who have chosen alternative paths to family building, like fur mommies.

Incorporating a pluralistic view into Mother’s Day can encourage a culture of sensitivity and awareness, making it a day of support and acknowledgment for all forms of mothering. It is an opportunity to validate and honor the different paths people walk in life, acknowledging that while not all are marked by biological parenthood, they are no less significant in the sphere of love and care.

As I struggle with infertility, my pluralistic approach to Mother’s Day has not erased my pain but has diluted the sting, offering me a reminder that my values and my contributions to the community are recognized and celebrated, irrespective of my parental status. I invite everyone to extend compassion and understanding, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance that transcends traditional familial roles.

In a world that honors pluralism, Mother’s Day could transform into a celebration not just of mothers, but of all who nurture and influence lives with love and dedication. It would be a recognition of the fact that love, in its most unconditional form, is the true essence of motherhood and caregiving.

~Candice C Carver

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