CommonPlaces Breaking60 TravelingNotes UU Exploration Belief and Practice


This is a work which was not planned but just happened. I have written for most of my life but, except for a brief period in my later teenage years, it has always been writing for work, writing on order, writing for external communication.

In late 1988, my work took me to Clemson, South Carolina. Whether it was the relative isolation after the Quaker openness of suburban Philadelphia, or the Southern air or perhaps the pine pollen, I cannot say. However, the move marked the beginning of a period of writing primarily for internal communication.

The move and the change nearly coincided with several other events: my youngest child left home, my father died (predeceased by several years by my mother) and I turned fifty. The move also began the process of severing my connection with the University of Pennsylvania where I had been first a student and then a faculty member for nearly 21 years, or as some would put it, three sevens of my life. Thus, now as I move through the eighth seven, it seems time to recognize that mid-life has begun. Perhaps these writings and the urge they represent to write for myself, rather than most directly for others, are the unconscious marking and taking note of that transition.

Thus these essays, meditations, sermons, poems, aphorisms, recipes. Most were written during this period, most by myself (although the work of others does appear occasionally, with attribution) and most in South Carolina. The volume was conceived and completed after my return to King of Prussia.

The aphorisms, or "column fillers," were mostly first spoken around our family dining table, some many, uncountable years ago. I had known that, for a period of time, my daughter Christina had been writing them down in a small notebook, entitled "Black's Laws." I recently found out that my younger son, Matthew, had saved the notebook (He re-discovered it in a storage box labeled: "Zen + Stuff"). He made it available when I told him about this developing work and I have transcribed some passages, many of which I had forgotten.

Perhaps the strongest external influences on this work come from the members of three Unitarian Universalist communities: the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clemson (SC), the Mountain (Highlands, NC) and the Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (Audubon, PA). Many of the pieces contained herein, although written spontaneously, were first "performed," either publicly or privately, for members of these communities. To them, I extend my heartfelt thanks for tolerance and good audience.

The internal source for this work is my continuing journey from a conservative Jewish cultural heritage, through an atheistic and rejectionist young adulthood, through a Quaker "inner opening" to Unitarian Universalism with great respect for Lao Tsu and the Buddha.

The journey continues: here then are some dispatches from a traveler, some communiquþs from midlife.

Jonathan Black

King of Prussia