This world. This place. This life.

Living with unresolved paradox


When I interviewed with the subcommittee on candidacy, one of the panel members asked me, “How do you plan to gain a broader understanding of Unitarian Universalism, beyond your experience with the fellowship in Anchorage?”

It’s an excellent question.  One answer I gave was that my connection to the wider UU movement has been, and will continue to be the UU blogosphere.  So thank you, UU bloggers.  You’re a big help to those of us in the hinterlands!

I’ve developed a related strategy since October.  My new iPod Touch has opened a door to UU podcasts.  If I remember, I’ll write about being hit between the eyes by a sermon from the Unitarian Church in Summit, NJ.

Today I was listening to Anthony David’s sermon about Taoism.  I’ve had a vague interest in Taoism for quite a while, and got more serious about it when Christine Robinson began tweeting the Tao Te Ching, and cross-posting the tweets on Facebook.  She recommended Stephen Mitchell’s poetic translation, and it’s been water to my soul.

The sermon quoted Stephen Prothero, whose name I know solely in connection to his recent book, God Is Not One, reviewed recently by Dan Harper in UU World.

The sermon traces the differences between Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism says, “learn the arts of civilization, which include all sorts of social rituals.”  Taoism says that ritual restricts flow.

At the Anchorage fellowship, we’re having a conversation that others throughout the UU movement are also having.  It’s also a conversation the broader culture is engaged in.  It’s something to do with balancing freedom and responsiblity, freedom of speech with behavioral covenants, individualism with community.

So when I heard about Confucianism’s emphasis on “social rituals,” I thought to myself, “Yes, we need this.”  And when Anthony described Taoism’s emphasis on going with the flow, I thought, “And that, too, we need.”

Which brought me back to Stephen Prothero.  Religions don’t last forever, and sometimes I wonder what will come next.  Listening to this sermon, I thought, “What’s next won’t happen until enough of us learn everything we need to learn from each of the world’s religions.  Not just their common truths.  But also the contradictions.  When we can live with unresolved paradox, maybe then something new will be born.”

Ritual and flow.  Grace and works.  God and no god.  Original sin and original blessing.  Knowledge and mystery.  Yes.


3 thoughts on “Living with unresolved paradox

  1. Yes.

    I also find the UU blogs a wonderful link to the larger UU conversation, and I don’t live that far from many other UU churches! The blogs are just wonderful.

  2. Prothero’s Religious Literacy is a good quick summary read of world religions, and what most American’s don’t know about them. I would guess that you are already beyond it, but it’s good to have on your bookshelf.

  3. Thanks for the suggestion, Tom. I’ve seen Religious Literacy around, and have meant to put it in my Amazon cart. Good reminder!

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