GNL number 33

the GOOD NEWS lately

a report of doings at meeting #33, Sunday, March 14, 2010
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends

INVOCATION

What a man believes may be ascertained not from his creed,
but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.
—George Bernard Shaw

(and a different spin, from a conversation in Alice in Wonderland)
One can’t believe impossible things, said Alice.
I daresay you haven’t had much practice, said the Queen.
When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast.
—Lewis Carroll


THEME

Sue had come up with today’s topic This I Believe, and provided a link to the NPR site that described its radio project of the same name and the framework for its TIB essays. But Sue was not able to be with us after all, so she sent her very thoughtful essay that drew on her family experience and spiritual practice. Nancy read this to the group, and we include it below, in Afterwords.

With many years of experience observing the wild creatures who come to her deck at night, Anna said one of things she believes in is Animals. And she described some of these visitors and asked the other nature observers about her almost entirely white skunk in particular–(Yes, said Ann, our area has more of these than most places.)

Cynthia said her first thought on this topic was of her husband Ron, who she spoke of as the rock of her life, through up, down, thick, thin. Then she found the TIB website and realized she was talking about Love, the many ways and forms not only romantic, our senses allow us to experience, and she named favorite examples like smelling coffee, tasting chocolate, hearing the birds in her yard, seeing dearfriend Bobbi with her new baby, and how love is bigger than we usually think, all around us, waiting.

I believe in God, said Jack, and then, that his belief arose from suffering depression as a young man, for which he sought medical treatment, but finally found light in Christianity, and later as a Christ-centered Quaker. When Cynthia asked if this led to his peacemaking activity, he said the inclination had been growing in him from early on; that though his parents weren’t religious practitioners, they were very principled people, his dad, the author of a book on The Negro in Boston, and he had been close to his dad.

Adair read a quote from a favorite book of hers about Cape Cod—The Outermost House, by naturalist Henry Beston. This reflected her belief in the animal “nations” with whom we share the earth. (See AW .) And she gave us a 6-wordie as another illustration: All life is interrelated and interdependent. She also spoke of finding her notes of previous springs on the (same-time) arrival of her hummingbirds, and wanting before her house is sold, to take steps to keep them safe, eg, from following red into the barn and getting stuck there!

Ann read a personal statement of her beliefs in the form of several aphorisms that together sounded like a poem. Then, knowing we expect her 6-wordies, she also read us a 6-w list that included all the legal names for Skippy practitioners. (Please see AW for both.) And in addition, she gave data on skunks, rabbits, and hummingbirds when we needed it.

Nancy had asked herself what’s the belief that’s influenced her most, where had it come from, and what does that belief then imply? The key word in her answers was an idea already voiced in this gathering in several ways—connectedness—of all of us humans, and first, of all life on earth. She read the three answers she’d written and these follow below, in AW, along with a quote.

And three last notes: We took our cue for the next Topic from Jack, who recalled his longtime practice of breathing meditation—Breathe in Christ, breathe out peace (—love, —joy), so next time we’ll bring Words or Practices that Help us “Come Home”. Our Offering was given to the Afghan Well Project, via Afghan Women’s Fund,

For more info: lilyconnie@verizon.net
Also, a brochure is available.

and the This I Believe Project of NPRradio. And a thankyou to Ron Wilson for joining us for lunch; come again!


BENEDICTION

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
—–William James


NEXT TIME

Sunday, April 11, 2010 (1030), at Jack’s. The topic is Words or Practices that remind/return/center us.


AFTERWORDS

from Sue:

This I Believe—We’re All Doing Our Best

I come from a family with a lot of anger and yelling, much of which swirled around my mentally ill youngest brother. His illness was terrifying to my father, and over-compensated for by my mother. She pressured my other brother and me to prop him up which I believe harmed us all.
In my late teens and 20’s I was very angry at my mother, and withdrew from my family to escape the pressure to always ignore my own needs in favor of my youngest brother’s.
When I became pregnant, age 25, I feared that my son would be born with the same psychological difficulties. When I first held him, I was flooded with a vast, overflowing love, and the astonished understanding that I would probably make many mistakes mothering him, mistakes I desperately did NOT want to make. At the same moment, as though it were the flip side of this illumination, I knew that my mother loved all three of her children very much and felt the same fear I felt of making mistakes. I understood that she never wanted to harm any of us, and that she had done her absolute best to raise us well. At that moment my anger against her began to dissolve.
Since then one of my beliefs, “We’re all doing our best.” has helped defuse a lot of the blaming, grudge holding energy I feel when people upset me. This belief has been strengthened by my readings in Buddhism, where people’s actions are evaluated on a continuum that stretches not from bad to good, but from unskilled to skilled. This suggests that we all need to become teachers to one another, rather than seek vengeance, or trying to punish.

I say a Taoist verse to myself when I do my morning yoga (while I hold a position). ” Please note—instead of “good man” and “bad man” I’m always thinking “skilled” and “unskilled.
“What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you do not understand this you will get lost
no matter how intelligent you are,
It is the great secret.”

“The good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.
The good artist lets her intuition lead her wherever it wants.
The good scientist has freed himself from concepts and keeps his mind open to what-is.
Thus the Master makes herself available to all people and does not reject anyone.
She is ready to use all situations and does not waste anything.
This is called embodying the Light.
“What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you do not understand this you will get lost
no matter how intelligent you are,
It is the great secret.”
—from the Tao

from Adair:

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
—Henry Beston

from Ann:

This I believe …

Schizoid thinking is not so bad, therefore… this I believe:
I will not be the same person tomorrow that I am today.
We are all ultimately dependent on our connection to the hearts of our true friends.
A loving heart, being so much harder to acquire than a mind filled with anger and fear, becomes my life goal.
There are days and times of depression and defeat, and then there is the next minute and then the next….
The natural world heals and nourishes our core and has the answers, if only we take the time to look and listen fully. (“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” – Frank Lloyd Wright)
There are days when I know so much, and there are days when I feel like a complete dolt, and that the average is not so bad.

Six Wordies

  • This I believe, for today anyway.
  • Skiplings look for the truth everywhere.
  • Answers don’t always come from questions.
  • Which come first, questions or answers?
  • Skippettes, skippers, skiplings, skiptarians, skiplics, skipists?

from Nancy:

Notes to myself

What’s the belief that’s influenced me most? That the earth is one living organism; and we and everything else are involved in a miraculous web of connections.
How did I come on this belief? Not just learning of James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, nor Buddhist thought like that of Thich Nhat Hanh, nor the Native American view of life. Those revelations came later, and reinforced my own intuitions and yearnings. I’d always felt on my own out there, which has seemed vaguely not good, even like a defect or curse. But over the years have come to realize that that sense of aloneness has also been a major source of my looking into the world more deeply and broadly, and finding connection.

What does this imply? What then is the way to live, if I believe this? I believe we’re here to remember: we’re part of this grand scheme, and everyday it needs us to give our realest attention and respect and appreciation to the other parts, the other me’s. The Buddha said there are seven simple ways we, any of us, can offer something to each other.
—I believe there are 100’s of little ways.
—Here’s one that was offered to me yesterday after I’d had a kind of intense 24 hours at my mom’s: I was shopping at the Chopper and ended up in the line of a cashier I’d never seen before—older, not a kid, and probably from downstate— and he was such a cheerful extrovert that he greeted me not only with a smile, but this jaunty “Hiya, Beautiful”. Well, I was so caught by surprise that I couldn’t help laughing really loud. I just felt so delighted and uplifted—not to be thought beautiful, but to be reminded, my god, people can do this for each other! We can give our smile, our eyes and ears, we can greet each other with recognition, and blessing—that’s extending a hand we all need. That’s connecting.


Kurt Vonnegut writes,
“I asked (my son) Mark a while back what life was all about,
since I didn’t have a clue.”
“He said,” ‘Dad, we are here to help each other
get through this thing, whatever it is.'”
(Quoted in No Impact Man, by Colin Beavan)

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