It matters what we believe. Some beliefs are like walled gardens. They encourage exclusiveness, and the feeling of being especially privileged.
Other beliefs are expansive and lead the way into wider and deeper sympathies.
Some beliefs are like shadows, clouding children's days and fears of unknown calamities.
Other beliefs are like sunshine, blessing children with the warmth of happiness.
Some beliefs are divisive, separating saved from unsaved, friends from enemies.
Other beliefs are bonds in a world community, where sincere differences beautify the pattern.
Some beliefs are like blinders, shutting off the power to choose one's own direction.
Other beliefs are like gateways opening wide vistas for exploration.
Some beliefs weaken a person's selfhood. They blight the growth of resourcefulness.
Other beliefs nurture self-confidence and enrich the feeling of personal worth.
Some beliefs are rigid, like the body of death, impotent in a changing world.
Other beliefs are pliable, like the young sapling, ever growing with the upward thrust of life.
By the way a Gong sound bath is created from a selection of Gongs that are played over an hour while you simply lie there sinking into the ground. It is a wonderful and powerful experience, I highly recommend it to anyone.
Now as we arrived we greeted the Wizard and his wife, they welcomed us in, and Sue took out her phone and found her compass. She wanted to find East. So she found due north and we took our spot. We then shared with many others in a truly wonderful experience.
Now morality has been on my mind quite a lot in recent weeks. I have just finished reading Bob Woodward’s (of Watergate and all the President’s Men fame) excellent new book “Fear: Trump in the White House”. It is an incredible and frightening book. The president’s morality has come into question for various reasons. The suggestion is that it is not so much that he is immoral, more that he is amoral; that essentially he is not ruled by a particular foundational moral code, other than the situation he is in. If he has a moral compass he is ruled by fear and instilling fear. There is a quote on the back of Woodward’s book in which Trump says “Real power is – I don’t even want to use the word – fear.” The suggestion being made is that if he lives from a moral compass it is one based on fear.
"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre (war), where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short."
I will just repeat the last few words
“And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” Gosh that is hard.
For Hobbe’s what is required to overcome this state of fear is an ultimate authority to bring order to wayward humanity and subjugate our anarchic and brutish nature.
Now while I reject this fear based view of humanity, I do have a sense that there is a goodness at the core of life, an ok-ness, I acknowledge that it is not always easy to find a guide. How do we find our true north? How do we find the right direction and make moral decisions about life, so as to give positively to the melting pot of humanity. It is suggested that there is no longer a single meta-narrative, that the foundation stones that we once built our lives on no longer have value. I am not convinced, I do find certain truths that have been with us for centuries and keep on resurfacing. I do believe that there is an ultimate goodness that we can connect to, a goodness that can be found in everything, in you, in me and in everything. A love that can always overcome any fear. For fear ultimately corrodes the soul and reduces life to nothing.
Last Sunday John Midgley led a wonderful service at Dunham Road, celebrating 50 years since he took up ministry here and at Queens Road, he will be delivering something similar at Queens Road next month. John was my first Unitarian minister at Cross Street in Manchester. While there he introduced me to the wonderful Carl Scovel. Now at the heart of his faith was something he described as the “Great Surmise” at a talk he delivered at the 1994 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly he described what he meant by it:
“The Great Surmise says simply this: At the heart of all creation lies a good intent, a purposeful goodness, from which we come, by which we live our fullest, and to which we shall at last return. This is the supreme mystery of our lives. This goodness is ultimate-not fate, not freedom, not mystery, energy, order, finite, but this good intent in creation is our source, our centre, and our destiny...Our work on earth is to explore, enjoy, and share this goodness. Neither duty nor suffering nor progress nor conflict-not even survival-is the aim of life, but joy. Deep, abiding, uncompromised joy.
Life really is about how we see things, our perspective. Is life “Nasty, brutish and short”...Maybe, maybe not?
Or is it a “Deep, abiding, uncompromised joy ”...Maybe, maybe not?
So maybe this is the key, to live by the “Golden Rule”, to love one another, to love our neighbour as ourselves. That though requires a belief that there is a love at the core of all life, our lives. Do we see this when we look in the mirror, do we see this when we look into each others eyes?
It matters, it really does.
I think the greatest danger to humanity, past present and future looking forward, is this idea that some people are superior to others, have greater value. It is a voice that we hear more and more, a voice that leads to separation, that breeds this idea of us and them. It is there in religion, but also secular society. Some religious groups talk about the saved and the unsaved, others talk of being God’s chosen people. When they speak this way they are talking of a God I do not recognise. The God I know accepts and loves all universally. Experience has revealed to me that we are all chosen by God, it’s just that so many of us turn away and cannot believe that there is a spirit that is there in all life.
When the epistle Paul talked of the oneness, the unity in Christianity, he wrote that in Christ “there is no longer Jew or Greek.” He did not say that there are no longer Jews or Greeks more that people are no longer separated by these distinctions; that they are all one in love, in body and in spirit; that if all people are viewed in the light they are brothers and sisters to one another.
As Tenzin Gyatso XIVth Dalai Lama has said “Mentally, physically and emotionally we are the same. We each have the potential to be good and bad and to be overcome by disturbing emotions such as anger, fear, hatred, suspicion and greed. These emotions can be the cause of many problems. On the other hand if you cultivate loving kindness, compassion and concern for others, there will be no room for anger, hatred and jealousy.
These words very much chime with a favourite story of mine, “The Two Wolves"
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Maybe this is how we can find a foundation on which we can make moral choices and decisions. It begins by believing that at the core of life is a goodness and that if we feed that in the right way it can grow within us and that we can live in ways that will serve life in loving and positive ways. It will require us to believe that this same spirit is all life. It will require us to live from a place of love and not of fear.
It matters, it really does…But then again everything matters…Every feeling, every thought, every word and every deed.