Sunday, September 27, 2015

Actually, It's Called the Interweb

The Seventh Principle of Unitarian Universalism: 
Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence


A world begins in fits and starts.  There are many legends of the beginnings of this world, and of every thing, even the beginning of light.  The creation of a world in both the literal and metaphoric sense is fraught with success and failure.  But is failure something that goes wrong, or something that goes differently than expected?  What if words like wrong and failure were actually value-neutral?  What if those words were merely regular old adjectives just like red, or tall, or smooth?  When you look at the origin and history of the word wrong it doesn’t exactly imply that wrong is bad.  That use of the word didn’t happen until later.  Wrong merely means crooked in the directional sense.1  Off the expected course.  We love to say that things are right or wrong.  So, if wrong isn’t wrong then how does it differ from right?  Well, wrong is still the opposite of right in that right comes from the latin rectus which means straight.  The opposite of crooked.  Wrong means it is off the expected path.  It is on a path of its own.  Right means I am going straight ahead on course.  We could assume that one is better than the other, but why?  Do either of these truly require a judgement about whether meeting expectations is always the best possible outcome?  Wrong is not wrong, it is merely different than expected, or anticipated, or perhaps even desired.  By the same token failure is only a word that describes the exact same thing.  A deviation from expectations.  Buddhism refers to expectations as the “wanting mind.”  A wanting mind is trying to create structure and control over its environment.2  But the world evolves of its own accord and no attempt at controlling it will succeed.

This is not to say that there aren’t deeds that are wrong.  I’m not saying that bad things are actually good.  This is a look at the bigger picture.  A look at the society of the world and its progress toward peace.

For a world begins in fits and starts.  To have faith is to believe to one degree or another that there is a purpose to it all, even if we can’t see it.  Not a predestination, but a point to it all.  A purpose, a reason, to both things straight and crooked. That life itself has purpose and that all its twists and turns might also have meaning and appropriateness on some level.  That there is a meaning to suffering and challenge and joy.  From of point of that idea which we hope is true, we then philosophically diverge into all sorts of interpretations about the purpose and meaning of life. The Ultimate Reality.  Is there a God or isn’t there?  If there is, what is Its nature?  Is it different from us, or is there no line where God ends and we begin?  And from the Humanist perspective we may ask: Where does our sense of purpose come from?  We feel it, we are moved into action by it.  Our faith is in our interconnectedness with one another.  Whether theist or humanist, regardless of the perspective we come from, both agree our purpose is one another, and the evolution of our civilization into a world of peace, prosperity, and mutual respect.  And throughout that difficult process, we do our best to maintain a faith that all shall be well. To have peace over the state of things and remain calm that in doing so we are better equipped to receive inspiration.

A world begins in fits and starts. When we see suffering and tragedy, we also invariably see a compassionate social response.  Think of the tsunamis, the earthquakes and the outpouring of love and support from the world over.  We weave the strands more tightly together as a people every time.  The world has actually expanded its ability to know and serve one another, despite the disproportionate amount of war and violence and hatred we see in the media. ...Or perhaps because of it.  We communicate freely across the planet to a far greater degree than any dictator or tyrant has ever had the ability to control, for long.  This uncontrollable desire to know one another, fueled by our experience with tragedy and tyranny, drives our social and informational technology.  Social media is a compassionate response to the tyranny and tragedy of our human history coupled with our innate need for and limitless capacity to create relationships with one another.

The Internet itself is the literal technological embodiment of our human civilization.  It has information on everything from sex to soup and in direct proportion to their actual usage.  It is a man-made invisible grid of the planet constructed over the past 45 years, one email at a time for no purpose other than to simply communicate with one another.  It was built human by human, user by user, hackers and coders and programmers and terrorists and bloggers and sex workers and families like the Eh Bee’s making funny videos.  We have relationships with these people as much as with those who built the walls of this church.  They, we all, have built a virtual interdependent web of all things.  But is it virtual?  The Internet is real-time, physical manifestation of our innate human connectivity.

So when we look again at words like wrong and failure, and deliberately choose to insist that we not place a judgement upon them, we start to see through the fog of suffering and tragedy to the bigger picture and purpose beneath.  A world begins in fits and starts.  But what becomes an interdependent world most?  One that has known both the pain of loneliness as well as the blessing of relationship.  One that has learned, and is learning the consequences of its actions.  And through the innate compassionate attribute of the human race we, to greater and greater degrees everyday, add new strands to the web of our experience and love for one another.  

Is this what people call God?  Is this faith?  Is the web itself God?  What is your purpose?  Joy.  What is the purpose of life?  To connect with one another.  To recognize that there is no distance between you and me and then act upon that knowledge.  To show honor and respect for not only all that is in your world but also for where we are on the continuum of progress toward peace on earth. We are perfect.  For perfection is not a destination, it is the inner directive of purpose that is the defining characteristic of our perfection.  That by design we exist to improve is our perfection.  We are perfectly made and perfectly guided from within.  Through free will we hear that inner guidance or choose to ignore it.  But even ignorance evolves into curiosity once fear is dissolved.  Remember that.  Have patience.  Have faith.  All shall be well.

We all have ideas about what is right and what is wrong.  We all have plans which are sometimes thwarted by forces out of our control.  But when you let go of expectations, a larger pattern emerges.  One that is not afraid of challenges, but leverages those challenges in favor of the very thing that it appears is being destroyed: the Human Spirit.

When something goes off the expected or hoped for course, we respond.  If we respond with love, we become even further intertwined with one another.  We learn how to respond better and faster and anticipate problems and cure diseases all because something has gone wrong.  We learn new ways of loving and create social programs because something has gone wrong.  In these ways wrong is an inherent blessing within a tragedy.  Something positive can be mined from every wrong turn if only we have the faith to know that such a thing is possible.  

And by this act we become even further entwined with one another.  The web thickens.  

And who knows?  Maybe this is exactly the plan.  Maybe we’ve been on the right track of our greater intent all along.

Every faith system on the planet will tell you that you must acknowledge power in order to benefit from it.  In order to participate in love we must acknowledge that love exists.  We must admit that we are worthy of being loved.  We must give permission.  Plug in. Tune in. Tune up. Turn on.  This implies that the only thing waiting to happen is our consent to acknowledge. To recognize.  There is an energy which exists.  A soup of something which envelops us.  Few would deny it, though they will all call it different things.  They name it according to their faith.  The language is scientific for some.  Metaphysical for others.  Many of us use both.  Because we marvel at what the Ultimate Reality has wrought.  We are in awe at the confluence of circumstances so improbable that they are considered mathematically impossible.  We are a mathematical impossibility and yet we are here.  We exist.  We think.  We are made perfect in our constant need to reach for the better feeling, the better idea. the knowledge, the wisdom. We are perfect because we evolve. Because we have, in ironic tandem with our ability to create the perfect weapons, begun to slowly and painfully acknowledge the value and inherent dignity of human life.  You have only to look at even the most biased of history books to see it.  We have evolved to the point where we have even codified into our law the pursuit of happiness as a basic human right.  We use words to guide us toward doing it better than we are able to when they are written.  We literally throw anchors at a destination—no matter how far—and then drag ourselves there with purpose and struggle.  We are perfect.  We began that way and nothing can shake us from that truth.  We can look at the proof of it everyday.  Though we may not know how or why we exist or from where we came, if anywhere, or to whence we shall go, we not only exist, we exist to thrive.  For we can see that when faced with A or B we always choose the one which will at least cause us the lesser amount of grief, if not the most amount of happiness.  And there is not a human being on this planet, nor single cell of life, not even the components of an atom that does it one bit differently. When faced with A or B we instinctively reach for the better thought. In this we find that we are inherently perfect.  We stand in awe at the mere fact that we exist.  And we give thanks for whatever it was, be it Chance or Choice, which made it so.  Amen.  Namast√©.





"Actually It's Called the Interweb." Wil Darcangelo. Given Sunday, September 27, 2015 at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Fitchburg, MA
1. wrong. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wrong (accessed: September 16, 2015).
2.  Moffett, Philip. The Tyrranny of Expectations.  Dharmawisdom.com.  http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/tyranny-expectations (accessed, September 16, 2015).
photo: http://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles/7th

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