Sunday, July 31, 2011

What I Believe

There is a tradition at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship which invites people to share their credo statements with the congregation. As Unitarian Universalism and Druidry are both non-creedal paths, the responsibility for forming our beliefs lies with ourselves. Below is the statement I read before our congregation today. Without further ado, here it is:

The last time I stood before this congregation to read my credo statement was nearly three years ago, in October 2008. Only in a Unitarian Universalist congregation would I have the opportunity to share my beliefs again after some time has passed with any thought in the world that they might be different from before. I think it’s just wonderful that we have such opportunities to support each other in our search for truth and meaning as we grow and change together through the years.

So, after reviewing my credo from 2008, have things changed? I realize that some of you might not have been here last time and even if you were, you might not remember what I had to say (I doubt it’s tacked up on your refrigerator). As that’s the case, here is a review of my statement from three years ago:

I believe all living things are strands on the web of life. Trees, birds, insects, snakes, fish, amoebae and people share a spark of life that is sacred, wondrous and holy. We’re made of stardust and water – we live, we love, we die. And that’s it.

What we choose to do with the time we have will, in part, determine our future as a species on planet Earth. Only time will tell if Mother Nature’s experiment with “big brains” will work out. If people finally manufacture our own demise (and take a whole host of other species down with us), life will eventually find a way to persist, in some fashion, beyond humanity. Earth was not made “for us” by some omniscient, other-worldly God, any more than it was made “for” dinosaurs, pitcher plants or mastodons.

Big Two-Hearted River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
I feel most intimately connected to the web of all life in natural places that are relatively unscarred by human hands. And I make it a point to seek out these places as often as possible, to reflect, connect, and renew my spirit. Sometimes in the wilderness, the persistent mental chattering of my mind slowly fades, like ripples on the surface of a lake receding to leave a perfect, mirrored pool. When I slow down, remember to breathe and pay attention to the world around me, I find my still mind acts not only like a mirror, but like a lens through which I can glimpse the depths of the universe.

I believe that most people pay precious little attention to the world around them. Bills, money, politics, hairstyles, cell phones, and other random minutiae consume our lives so completely we feel empty – cut off from the rest of nature and from our very own humanity. When I truly pay attention to others; when I listen, laugh, share and love, I begin to understand how inextricably connected we really are.

Life is constantly changing, flowing and growing. What never changes is our inherent dependence on one another. I believe the best way to live my life is in a way that honors the deep, fundamental connections between all things. Sometimes I forget, stumble or fail. But always trying again may be the most important thing I ever do.

Well, that’s pretty good. Not too much has really changed for me in the past three years as far as my beliefs are concerned. I must admit, I do have some doubts about the cheery, “we all die and that’s it” part. More and more, it seems to me that our fundamental spark continues on in some way. Transforming into something else maybe or merging with the energy of the universe. I guess we’ll all find out what really happens someday (or maybe not).

Symbol of Awen and of the
Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids
What has changed the most for me in the past few years is my discovery of the path of Druidry. Yes, I just said the word Druid. I’m not talking about the same priestly class of ancient Britain recounted by Julius Caesar, but a Druid tradition that honors the past, but is very alive and well in the present.

As you can tell from my statements above, my spirituality has always been strongly rooted in a connection with the natural world. Since discovering Unitarian Universalism fifteen years ago, I have appreciated that many UUs share this point of view and that our seventh principle recognizes a “respect for the interdependent web of life, of which we are a part”. But for me, much of Unitarian Universalism has still seemed too rooted in the humanistic, rational world which discounts magic, mystery, the unknown and the unexplainable. Something in me has yearned for something more. As Philip Carr-Gomm writes, “Only one aspect of our Being grows and is satisfied by the purely rational...Another great part of ourselves needs the nourishment of the trans-rational - the aesthetic, poetic, mythic sides of life that cannot fully be explained or described by the mind." 

At this point, I’ll refrain from my credo turning into a lesson on neo-paganism and the path of Druidry, but I will say this. Connecting with others in this Fellowship in our Ancient Shores chapter of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (or CUUPS) and in a broader sense, to Druids all over the world in the Ancient Order of Druids in America and in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids has been an immensely rewarding experience. Currently, I am enrolled in the training program of the Bardic Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, which is based in Sussex, England. Each lesson, each reading, exercise and mediation has been like flinging open doors and windows of possibility – new, amazing ways to appreciate the magic and wonder of all life all around us.

As part of this experience, I’ve been keeping a blog, entitled DruidUU. A video I created is even featured online on the home page of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, which is the largest Druid organization in the world. In my latest blog post, I wrote the following:

We are starstuff. Billions of molecules of vibrating energy, spinning electrons, protons, neutrons... All things are the same, really, "on Earth, as it is in heaven." We are not only connected to each other, as humans living on Mother Earth, but intimately connected to every other animal, plant, lichen, rock, droplet of water and gust of wind that blows. And when our short time is done here in this physical form, our energies don't simply disappear or fade away, they transform, connecting even more deeply to the whole that is everything, eternal, always.

No matter if you call it God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Yahweh, Allah, Awen, Buddha, Tao or any other name. Names do not matter. Everything matters. We are all connected. And we destroy any being, any mountain, any rock or river at the peril of All. We are caretakers, we are Wise Ones, watchers and protectors, spreading peace and harmony throughout the land, the sea, the sky and into the heavens.

Let the Inspiration of the Awen fill us up with imagination, creativity and love for all things, for all life and for each other. All of us, always.

Luminous beings are we...and we are ever so good at hiding the light. But still it refuses to go out. Wake up from the dream. Let your light shine!

After today's service, I received many wonderful compliments and warm remarks about my credo. The most touching was from someone who said, "You are our poet." What a lovely sentiment for someone who is in a bardic training course! 

In my next post, I'll share some thoughts and feelings about someone else's comment. He said, "Didn't Druids perform human sacrifice? Are we going to have one here?" While I'm sure he was trying to be funny, there are some underlying issues there I'd like to explore. Until next time, my friends, be well and let your lights shine! 

Yours under the Sacred Oaks,

Skybranch /|\

1 comment:

  1. 1) As a pantheist, I feel you do a lovely job of expressing pantheist views, though that may not be what you were intending to do.

    2) The human sacrifice comment reminds me of some comments made to me. Not about druidry, because I've only really talked about druidry to people who would be understanding. But in other areas, sometimes I share things that are close to my heart and am met with responses that are not especially kind. I am still trying to learn to respond to such comments in a way that turns the dialogue in a more positive direction.