My Before-I-Turn-30 Bucket List

The Grim Reaper chases the author

An (Over) Dramatization

A woman I love a lot, whose relationship blurs between “friend” and “family” (literally – she’s marrying my husband’s brother) posted on Facebook a To-Do List Before Turning 30. All of the people who are older than her insisted that this is a silly idea. Age is just a number, they said, an opinion I’ve noted most popular among those who have lived a greater-than-median number of years.

I also have a before-30 list. Mine is far less fun than hers, which was a collection of interesting experiences to have and desserts to eat. (She is, by far, more fun to spend time with.) I figured I might share it though, as I am interested in how other people approach their milestone birthdays. I hesitated to post this, fearing sharing it was more an exercise in narcissism – it’s my own life after all. Who cares besides me? At the same time, aging is a universal experience among the lucky, so why not.

In no particular order:

1. Figure out how to wear makeup in a flattering way. I am aware this is what most women’s teenage years are for. I was too busy wearing nothing but black and participating in my own alienation. In college I was resentful of the patriarchy (hey, still am) and expectations that I be beautiful, and so I did not use makeup for that reason. Now? Well, I’m now One of Those People, people who don’t sleep, courtesy of a 23 pound eight month old who is as adorable as he is inclined to wake frequently. I decided I am too old not to know how to paint my face, so with the help of Google, Youtube, and Buzzfeed, I’ve been figuring it out. I think I can cross this one off, actually.

2. Get rid of the clothes I don’t wear and only keep the ones that look great on me. This is called a capsule wardrobe, and I’ve more or less done it since I was a teenager. I don’t have a lot of clothes, and most of them are black. Most of them match each other. Yet. It took years of thrifting (I buy almost nothing new) to figure out what actually looks good on me, and then I had children. My body’s still a strange shape from having babies so I decided that my gift to myself before turning thirty was culling my wardrobe of the stuff that no longer works, or doesn’t fit.

I am really lucky here – I have a good friend who is the size of Thinner Me. Being able to give her many of my too-small clothes has made culling it less an exercise in trying to mute society’s voices about women of a certain size and more an exercise in gift-giving. She could be donating everything afterwards wondering why I have such bizarre taste in clothes. That’s her prerogative and I’m totally cool with it, but it’s been such a better process thinking “Oh, [name] might like this!”

3. Accept the inevitability of death. Y’all, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make this deadline. This is the root of all age-related anxiety, isn’t it? That our time is so short and our bodies are going to deteriorate (if we’re lucky to live long enough). I’m too old to pretend that death is something that happens to other people, and other people’s loved ones. It’s been clarifying thus far. I am embracing the ephemeral through my social media practices, which is liberating. The existential terror of knowing everything, and everyone you know, is temporary? Uh… about that.

4. Get better at letting go. It’s a combination of non-attachment and forgiveness of self and others. Once upon a time, I thought I was really good at not holding a grudge. I then learned that I wasn’t, it just so happened that few had angered me enough to be grudge-worthy. I also did not recognize how unreasonably high expectations for knowing things beyond my experience led me to begrudge myself rather harshly. I think I am improving, for a few reasons. One, I’m more discerning about my social circles, and slights from people outside of them? Whatever. The people in them? We’ve been able to work stuff out. Another thing that’s helped is having kids – my emotional energy goes mostly into them, and they provide a great lens for perspective. There are a few things I would like to leave in my twenties, all of which are some flavor of forgiving myself for stupidity or inexperience. Being on the older-end of 20s, I see that some times, but not all, I was too hard on myself for not understanding something or thinking I should be feeling something other than what I was. I am no longer holding my emotions to high moral standards. I am being real about what they are, and processing accordingly, that’s helping me let go of things. Recognizing that it is not completely possible to be the SuperWoman I aspire to be, and to be more compassionate to myself when I am not, has made me more effective as I accept my limitations. You can work with feelings and limitations that you’re brave enough to admit you have.

5. Get more sleep. Hahahahahahahaha I mean, a girl can dream, just not while she’s sleeping, because I’ve got babies.

6. Think ahead professionally. I have a fantastic job where I work with wonderful people doing meaningful and necessary work in ideal working conditions. It’s perfect, perfect for the moment. So on one hand, I am working to get better at it and learn more. As soon as I think I know what is going on… something else comes up. On the other hand, something this good risks complacency, and complacency kills creativity. I am old enough where I should have a 20 year plan and I should keep looking ahead, staying on top of the research, and figuring ways to do the work I do better and to figure out how I can keep adding to my community professionally.

7. Narrow my goals of what exactly it is that I want to accomplish in the community. I’m all about social justice. I’ve chosen to narrow that down to empowering the traditionally disempowered. Professionally, that means right now I’m working in homelessness alleviation. I dabbled a bit (I suppose that’s a fair way to describe it?) in other political stuff, and it is a useful somewhat-ongoing experience, in that it’s clarifying that I am not entirely sure what I am bringing to that table, or to the table of my community at large. I’ll always write about social justice, I’ll always be thinking about it, but what is my value-add to my community at large? What holes exist that I can put my talents to use? I have ideas, and by the time I am thirty, I want to have a clearer sense of something to explore, at least. I am old enough to realize that wide-eyed idealism is too naive to be practical, and to assess things a bit more accurately. I am also starting to see some glaring weaknesses in my social justice skill set. I need practice fundraising. I need to sharpen my political nose. I could stand to be better in the persuasion economy. These aren’t going to happen before I am thirty, but it is a goal for the next decade.

8. Relationship goals, writ large. Too personal to detail except that I have a happy family, with a happy spouse and happy kids, and so watching how we grow together. No one makes me feel so young and old simultaneously as my kids. I continue to seek to be a better member of my family, which is a learning process every day.

9. Re-anchor myself in my faith. To the extent that it is possible, I think can cross this one off. One of the ways that keeping my faith explicitly on my radar (it’s always implicitly there) is going to church. I tried to integrate into the nearby brick-and-mortar church’s community, but I came across a few structural obstacles, the greatest of which is my habit of taking weekends to visit out-of-town kin. Kin happens to be the reason we returned to New York State. Finding the challenge of becoming a member of a community without actually showing up to be a bit daunting, and because the friends and acquaintances I have in it are all fantastic people, I joined The Church of the Larger Fellowship. I am inspired by the work they do as a church, especially the prison ministry, and I am inspired by the faith-driven work of those involved in it. It’s not to say I won’t be darkening the door of the local brick-and-mortar churches when the opportunities present themselves; I will, but I am not relying on them for my spiritual anchor. I have been wondering what the implications of this mode of thinking could be if people started making such decisions en-mass; we’d need a new model of church.

10. Be OK with lists that are not an even ten items. Working on it.

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It feels like death but it is also very very freeing.

IMG_9408

I wrote those words in my journal (and then copied them with a steadier hand so I could take a picture). It feels like death. Obviously, I did not die. Mortality is on my mind with a milestone birthday in less than two months.

The thing with death is that it’s a when, not an if. And it’s not just me, it’s not just you, it is everyone, and it is every thing. My spouse, parents, children, friends, coworkers: everyone I know is going to die. Everyone you know is going to die. The world as we see it now, it’s only here to us now. And then time passes and circumstances shift and everything’s different and some things are gone. This is the way it is, this is the way it has always been.

I had a few things happen in the past year where I decided I would prefer to be in the memory of the people with me at the time, rather than accessible later on. I wanted to approach my ideas and presence like it was a gift to those with me then. So I did it. I deleted all the Tweets that Twitter allows (turns out, you can only access your most recent 3,200 of them), my tumblr posts prior to January 2016, and I marked all but the most policy-wonky posts on this website as private if they were posted prior to 2015. It felt like a death – one’s online presence is their content, after all – but it also felt very freeing, and very proper.

We do not take videos of our every moment and relive them later. If I want to think about the times I went with Jude to Diva Espresso, I need to go into my memories. I talk to them about it. I use social media as a conversational medium more than letters, and I wanted my presence to have that same wispy quality. I was inspired by how Jude uses tumblr (with an easy trigger-finger on the delete key). I read on Anil Dash’s Twitter that Prince often deletes posts after a few days. I have no idea if this is true, but I loved the idea.

So I deleted the tweets and posts and spent the rest of the day wandering around with my breath tight, like I just did something. Like I broke up with a boyfriend who was holding me back, or like I secretly acquired a passport. Like I did something so reckless, but it felt so proper. Yet, of course, no one cares as much as I do about my online content. No one is reading my twitter, over and over, now missing the absence of old tweets. And so it is with our lives too – our life is most important to our own self, a gift to be intimately savored. Our lives are uniquely ours, and no one else experiences it the same way.

I suppose I wanted my social media content to be more like me – mortal.

I am turning thirty in a few months. I am OK with it, happy even. My life has been very full, and overall I am content with the growth I have done and the experiences that I’ve had. Not everything worked. I had some very big failures. Life went on, and I went on with it. A colleague told me that she met a former student of mine and she described me as, “Intense.” I can’t dispute the description, though I never thought to describe myself that way. Generally, if I went towards something, I went all in, and experienced it for what it was worth. And when I chose to walk away, be it from graduate school, veganism, a few failed friendships, it was with a lot of hard-earned lessons.

Thirty brings a lot of consternation to a lot of people, though all my friends who reached the age say they prefer it. I am approaching it happy – I love my life. My husband and I have a fantastic, loving relationship. Our kids are wonderful, even beyond the much appreciated fact that they exist and are healthy. I feel like I have the job I am meant to have for this phase of life, and it’s a good one. When I look back on the last decade, I feel like I can say I tried a lot of things, I tried them fully, and learned so much. I feel like I belong- I belong to the universe, I belong in this era, I am supposed to be here doing the things I am doing. This is a feeling I would not have if I did not approach everything with my all and experienced the consequences accordingly. I am grateful for what has been a wonderful life thus far. I am thankful not to approach thirty with the sense that I am old, but the sense I am here, that life is a privilege that I get to live.

Life is a fleeting privilege.

And my social media now has an expiration date. I’m only going to keep the previous calendar year’s posts unless they are really policy wonky. And my tweets will delete after three months. I am going to sit with this way of internet existing, for awhile, and see how it goes. So far a few people on Twitter have mentioned a preference for expiring content. I wonder what other (your?) thoughts are.

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Steady as She Goes

fog obscuring horizon/water line of a pond

By AlexandreHenryAlves via morguefile.com

2015. This year changed my life, as is inevitable of all years. It started and ended in the flat of double in Black Rock. We had un-executed plans to move. The roundness in my belly became an over-sized baby. Laugh at my diminutive nicknames for him; my seven month-old fits comfortably in eighteen month-old clothing. My toddler speaks with sentences, and so well that I just assume she knows all words. My husband and I are very tired, but content. This year brought me another child and thus a new rhythm. This year was lived differently than others.

This year lacked existential waiting. In childhood, in adolescence, during university and later graduate school, and during pregnancy I spent a lot of time living as if I was preparing for something else, as if the work or endeavors I was taking on in that moment weren’t the meaningful ones, only practice for the future. Now my formal education is complete. My spouse and I are satisfied with our family size. We have the jobs we love and do not feel the need to seek something better. We cannot predict what the changes will be in the future and thus will not be living in anticipation. I feel more like I am living, I feel like I am more present in the moment. I wish I had done this all of the time. I wish I had parked myself into my current era as heavily as I do now, as it is comfortable.

There is an irony of my 2015 One Word,  Intention: Unlike other years, it simply was not on my mind. Oops. The rigors of fresh motherhood with the rigors of parent-of-toddlerhood and being employed kept me in the moment. I was intentional more in short-term focus than in long-term scheme. Yet I clarified some of my goals: I have a clearer sense of what I want my activism to do, and what I should do next about it. That process was less trying-and-see and more see-think-and-sit-back.

My One Word for 2016 is steady. I imagine myself in a kayak on Lake Erie, facing a slighty hazy summer sunset with the wind coming. Beauty surrounds me, a destination beckons, but the purpose of the moment is just to be steady. Steady head to where I need to go. Steady in the face of the wind. Steady – be present, be reliable, be even-keeled. None of these traits are particularly out-of-character for me. This is a resolution to be myself, with a long deep breath first. Steady because I am not waiting for something, I am living something and this is the pace of my life.

May 2016 bring you peace, justice, and prosperity.

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Notes from the Hegemon

From morguefile.com http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/180811

From morguefile.com http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/180811

I remember when the planes hit the towers. I was a sophomore in high school in Academic Support, the euphemistic name the district gave study hall, making up a Global History quiz I missed. My teacher, Ms. Zalewski, turned on the TV. One of the World Trade Center towers was on fire. She was somber. I assumed it was an accident and was astonished that the plane couldn’t miss the building.

I went the band room for the second half to practice clarinet. Soon, I was the only person in the hall. My (to this day!) dear friend Laura pulled me out and told me a second plane hit the other tower. It was then that I, and maybe everyone else, realized it wasn’t an accident. I remember thinking, “Our turn.” See, I’d spent my youth watching coverage of bombs in the Balkans, bombs in Israel and Palestine, mines in Africa and Asia, bombs seemingly everywhere. Violence seemed to be the way of the world. I’ve never met anyone who also had this reaction.

My countrymen were scared. Isolated by oceans and protected by the strongest military in the world, this sort of attack struck everyone else as unfathomable. We reacted. Oh, did we react. We swiftly went to war and we’ve been at war ever since, about half my lifetime.

I watched as we traded civil liberties for a chance at that fleeting feeling of protection. I watched as a group I rarely thought about before – Muslims – suddenly became the denigrated group. I watched as people approximately my age joined the military and hearing about how some of them never came back. I watched as my country opened a detention center offshores, and then another, and then another despite violating war crimes ethics and conventions. I watched as so many of the values I was taught we had as a child were undone in the name of safety and security. Dissenters were unpatriotic. It became thought reasonable to judge an entire religion based on its extremists. White Christians who never apologized for Timothy McVeigh (who is from my area) demanded apologies from Muslims for 9/11, contributing and creating a conventional (if inaccurate) wisdom that Muslims are violent. The surveillance state grew, buoyed by technological advances and the support of a scared population. I felt like I’d lost my country a bit, that this sweet land of liberty was tip-toeing towards becoming a fear-driven police state.

Getting older has been a disenchanting process realizing that we are not now, nor never have been, as good as I thought. As governor after governor (and some of my local politicians) try to block Syrian refugees from settling in their states, I realize this: We’ve learned nothing. This is textbook, exactly what we did with the Jewish refugees and look what happened to them. The terror attacks in France were horrific, as terror attacks always are. Horrific and apparently effective, as politicians are now shifting their rhetoric because they are scared, because they sense their constituents are scared, and exploiting fear is politically profitable. Never mind that this is more or less the goal of Daesh/ISIS.

I had already written letters to several elected officials asking they increase the refugee quotas. I live in a depopulated city near many refugees. My next door neighbor was one. A couple families down the street are refugees. A few blocks over and there are many more refugees. Some of them are Muslim. I love where I live and I have the absolute best neighbors. Then I called the governor, called my Congressman with my telephone as it seemed every public figure on Facebook’s comments were filled with people asking to drive the refugees away. No, no, no, no, no…. not this again.

Listen, I’ve known people with Syrian heritage. Heck, I have kin with Syrian heritage! Some are Muslim. Some are Christian. One is Jewish. Syrians are not a monolith. Everything I know about the Syrian war is that it is absolutely brutal. I can’t read about it. I work on problems of profound human misery for a living and I cannot read about the Syrian War or ISIS/Daesh because it’s too bad for me to cope. I get nightmares for days. I give money to refugee agencies, but that is all I can do as an individual. I rely on forces more powerful than I to make wise decisions and here we are closing the door because of the chance – the chance! – that someone from Syria could cause us harm. The chance that someone born in our own country could cause us harm doesn’t inspire us to more strictly regulate our weapons. The fact that cars are the most likely thing to kill us hasn’t inspired most of us to trade in our keys for public transit. We’re more likely to die from overindulging in our dinners and forgetting to exercise than we are in a terror attack but Syrians are the real threat, and please pass the butter.

Refusing to be afraid is a political act. Walking home at night when you are a woman is a political act when everyone tells you that you are assault bait. Not being anxious going into a “bad” (read: usually Black and usually poor) neighborhood is a political act if you are a white person and your society is structured on fearing non-white people. There is this vein in our culture that anything is justifiable if it could protect us from the people we dislike, as if safety were paramount. It’s completely based on prejudice. Crimes rates have been dropping? Whatever. Immigrants commit fewer crimes? Forget it.

I’m so sick of reading comments on my local news websites written by people using the fanciest technology that humanity has ever known, sitting in the wealthiest country of the world, begrudging letting what ends up being relatively few people to their cushy sphere of prosperity because they don’t want their taxes dollars spent on them. Or because they are afraid of “those people”. “Can you justify the risk” I’ve read, over and over again, “that you or your loved ones might be the target of a terrorist who slips in?” We justify lots of risks all of the time. Yet, here, the risk of one person doing harm to us is so great that we should let hundreds of thousands of people die in the process, because we won’t trust an thorough federal government over our prejudices. We value our lives more than anyone else’s. All of our foreign policies boil down to that. We won’t give up our hegemonic position and we’ll kill or let die anyone who we think might threaten that.

We are no better than anyone else, but we certainly act as if our lives are. At the time when “All Lives Matter” is the preferred dismissive retort to those advocating for African American rights, we turn our backs on refugees and bomb the Middle East. All lives matter indeed.

I often think back to September 11, 2001, and mourn, “It could have been so different.” If only we we’d been, or could be now, a bit braver. I hold on to optimism that we could find courage from common humanity, that we could be so brave as to be the moral example, that we could be the model of ideal humanity. I cannot make that argument as we close our doors and use our powers and privileges to ruthlessly prioritize our own safety. I cannot make that claim as our elected leaders attempt to push out the vulnerable.

We could do better. May we be brave enough to live with moral courage, instead of deferring to the impulse of safety at all costs. All costs have been too expensive and it is not going to become cheaper.

11/18/15-edited for grammar and typos.

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Filed under Class Warfare, Lessons Learned The Hard Way, Race, Social Justice Commentary

What does it mean when your state of emergency is a natural consequence of the economic system?

(Friendly reminder! I write my opinions here, and this blog doesn’t represent the agency that I work for. Got it? Good. Carry on.)

The mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, and the executive of King County, Dow Constantine, declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness in Seattle and King County. From The Seattle Times:

Murray called homelessness in Seattle a growing crisis among the worst in the city’s history, while Constantine said the situation countywide is “just as devastating to thousands as flood or fire.”

They aren’t lying. From the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness:

ONC15-graphic-450

For comparison sake, Western New York (Erie and Niagara Counties) had almost 8,000 people experiencing homeless the entire year. I lived in Seattle for three years. It was possible to witness the scope of Seattle’s problem when walking their streets, any streets, really. From bus windows looking past I-5, you see tents. On Broadway Avenue, or 2nd Street, Or University Way there are people whose clothes, backpack, and overwhelming fatigue betray that they’ve spent the last week sleeping outside. The bushes of the park a couple blocks from my first apartment startled me when I realized there were people in them. The youth shelter at the bottom of the hill from my apartment had a long line of teenagers weaving out its door every evening. To my Rust Belt sensibilities, Seattle otherwise felt opulent, but I’d never seen so many people experiencing this privation before.

Portland declared emergency too, as did Los Angeles. I see this declaration for what it is: a tactic. Declaring a state of emergency entitles a municipality to additional funds to cope with a problem; here, it’s homelessness alleviation. It’s a rhetorical tactic, and it lands awkwardly. Homelessness is an emergency to the person experiencing it. (My employer gets many phone calls from people seeking shelter who, erroneously, think we are a service provider. I’ll take the few minutes to direct them to an organization that will help, which is usually a conversation with a polite stranger whose voice has hints of restrained panic.) Of course, an individual’s emergency doesn’t constitute a state of emergency for the entire municipality until the scope overwhelms. Leaders in these cities have decided that homelessness has left the realm of banal and into suffering so widespread that it cannot be ignored.

Homelessness is a consequence of capitalism, a human-made system. The way the market regulates prices on all things ensures that some people will go without. Some people will go without a job, as the market sorts skills and demand allows sought-after skills to command a high price and lower demand reduced ones. And the structure of the market determined that only people in certain circumstances (for instance, lacking a mental illness that impairs everyday function and perception of reality) will be able to participate. We decided, as a society, that you need money for housing, and if you don’t have the money, by and large you don’t have housing (but we are working on that; in WNY we’ve housed all but 37 people experiencing chronic homelessness(!)). Declaring a homeless state of emergency says, on some levels, we cannot tolerate the scope of our human-made consequences. That there are levels of homelessness that will tolerate, and now we’ve exceeded it. I’d prefer poverty and homelessness have perpetual urgency.

I know that the only solutions we currently have to homelessness have to be capitalism-compliant: we’re not providing guaranteed housing to everyone, we are stitching together a better safety net. This is a worthy endeavor (I do it for a living!), and I’m not knocking it. The state-of-emergency money will fund shelter beds and prevention programs. We’re fighting the consequences, not the causes. We’re not undoing the underlying assumptions of our economy. We’re not questioning the economy at all. We are just making it a bit less brutal to its inevitable victims. It’s the same line of thinking that treats poverty as a matter-of-fact constant in society. Courtesy of capitalism, that’s not inaccurate. Most states of emergencies are the consequence of forces of nature. We can’t redirect the wind, so we only deal with the consequences. This one is a consequence of our own economic system. Lost in the rhetoric of emergency is the structural role of our economy in creating this suffering. I wish we’d be so brave to see this, and braver still to effect change. As long as housing is a spoil of capitalism, we will be doing this work in perpetuity.

In any case, I wish Seattle, with Portland and Los Angeles, nothing but success in their efforts to diminish the suffering of people experiencing homelessness.

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Lost words, lost places

There was a tall building on my route to work that was imploded last Saturday. It was a former hospital whose operations pre-dated my time in Buffalo. Now open sky and a pile of rubble greet my on my way to work. I hear it’s going to become a grocery store.

I was at my former university a few months back, and there are buildings that didn’t exist when I was there. Engineering buildings. Dormitories. A traffic circle. All new. The university of my memory changed shape.

Most of the changes to the landscape are subtler. Signs change. Someone paints a room. The decorations become more fashionable. Cars conform to a different aesthetic. Nothing stays the same. I expect this.

I navigated to a website I used to read religiously half a decade ago. The URL was there, but the page was blank. As far as I could tell, it simply stopped publication. A bit of searching, and I found that it ended publication on my birthday. Otherwise it is gone.

Actually, a lot of the blogs I used to read are gone, or the juicy parts disappeared from the internet. The authors chose to discontinue them, or shield their life a bit more, or maybe the burning part of their life story has cooled to embers, and instead of providing warmth, they just provide a hazard to injury. I went to read these in an attempt to remember what I used to find so compelling. I am in such a different phase of life, it’s hard to remember exactly what the world looked like through my younger eyes. The perspectives are distorted, or clarified, by the lens of age.

I didn’t save any copies of these blogs, the way you keep a copy of a compelling book. For some reason, I expected the internet to keep its sense of place, and this is not the case.

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Seeking

Thinking about faith and the sacred. Thinking about my increasingly secular life.

Or is it? What distinguishes a religious UU from one who isn’t? I am an irregular church attendee, but my values system has not changed. I feel like I am acting in my faith more than I have before. That values system that inspired me to become UU is the same one that inspired me to enter my current line of work. Being religious, on some levels, feels like the degree to which one submits their self to a religion. But the religion I’m affiliated with is a grassroots one that values the democratic process, that operates from the bottom up, and so it’s designed itself not to follow. This is a faith that still feels like it is mine, even as I have not taken part in any rites, and even when my community membership has diminished.

I was recently involved in Green Party organizing. I’ve taken a step back from it, mostly because all of the other steps in my life are a frantic and wonderful run of family and work. So, Green Party. They have ten key values! And the Unitarian Universalists have seven principles. And I sit here wondering how many other liberal progressive organizations that I can become affiliated with that also have lists, careful crafted by committee, declarations of belief made from a grassroots organizing effort. Delicious democracy, the leveler of power. Debatable democracy, relying on the wisdom of the masses for best practices. And I remember that both entities are human institutions, existing only because other humans similar to myself decided they should be that way. They could have decided something else.

Leadership via democracy is a tricky business. Someone has to distinguish their self and their ideas first. Someone needs to spend some time as the minority faction that is otherwise ignored for a time, until the powers of persuasive change the balance of numeric support. And so if religion is a business of meaning-making, and progressive politics are a business of improving society, the grassroots variety assume that meaning and insight from from the masses themselves. So there is a lot of room to act and believe. It’s not a great place for those without a rudder to be.

I have a rudder. I have a direction, and a clear-eyed perspective on what my priorities are. I learn on faith in times of struggle when I need a sign, or a friendly person pointing, to give me a sense of where to go. That is not now. I have a strange relationship with religion at the moment. I belong to a faith whose strong suit is “community” but in practice this generally means the community that meets within its walls. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not necessarily what I seek right now. I’m still trying to figure out how to be in communion with humanity. I’m trying to imagine a society-wide beloved community. I am trying to create a just society.

I don’t need religion to prescribe my relationship to society as much as I am still seeking the scared. And I forget this, as I am surrounded by sacred things now. Infants are sacred. The earth is sacred. And so forth. That is what my atheist self is seeking right now: ways to connect to sacred things. Ways to reassure myself I am connected and a part of the broader web of sanctity. And the largest obstacle for me is the understanding that religion is a largely human institution, and if God exists, he’s only tangential to religion. I cannot deny that the need to belong is the backdrop of all my religious pursuits.

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Filed under Unitarian Universalism/Faith