A sermon, presented on two occasions (10/13/96 at PUUF; 9/28/97 at The Fellowship of the Foothills, Anderson, SC). Again, as in Dream Notes, I have elected to include the entire program but not to expand my text into a formal essay. However, in several places (each marked by an "#") I have reconstructed the stories which I told spontaneously on those occasions. When I originally conceived the sermon, I planned to subtitle it, "Or, why I no longer take photographs." Perhaps you will understand why after you have read it.
Musical Prelude - Morning Has Broken
Let this flame remind us of the transience and beauty of life.
Call to Worship: from: Worship (R. W. Emerson)
"There is a principle which is the basis of things, which all speech aims to say, and all action to evolve, a simple, quiet, undescribed, undescribable presence, dwelling very peacefully in us, our rightful lord: we are not to do, but to let do; not to work, but to be worked upon; and to this homage there is a consent of all thoughtful and just persons in all ages and conditions."
Come, let us worship together.
Children's Moment - Jim, Who Liked 37 (which see)
<<Children may go to their classes>>
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
Hymn: I Walk The Unfrequented Road (#53)
From: Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing (R.W. Emerson)
."..The horseman serves the horse,
The neatherd serves the neat,
The merchant serves the purse,
The eater serves the meat;
'Tis the day of the chattel,
Web to weave and corn to grind;
Things are in the saddle,
And ride mankind.
There are two laws discrete,
Law for man and law for thing;
The last builds town and fleet,
But it runs wild,
and doth man unking..."
Hymn: Seek Not Afar For Beauty (#77)
I will not speak today about Voluntary Simplicity or about Mindfulness or about any other dedicated way of life. I will speak merely about getting on with one's life, about how one might live moderately and peacefully in the midst of chaos and confusion; about finding a middle way.
All of our life is an attempt to answer questions, of which only two are really important:
The first is one of CREDO: (of belief)
* What do we each believe about our origin, about the origin of the Universe and about our joint and several destinies?
The second is one of PRAXIS: (of practice)
* In the meantime, while contemplating our whither and our whence, our beginning and our ending, how can we each lead a good enough life?
"The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers."
or as Emerson put it:
"Things are in the saddle, and ride mankind."
Stuff, stuff, stuff!!!
I have a penchant for counting:
* 18 cookies (Mrs. Fields') (+ 6 brownies and 3 flavors of bits and pieces)
* 22 barrel bolts (Home Depot)
* 31 flavors and counting at Baskin Robbins
* 100+ china patterns (Reading China and Glass)
But: 1984: Dresden: I saw in the main department store: 1 china pattern, 4 colors: did the East Germans have a better life than us? Do we have a better life than they?
Let me suggest some practices which I have found helpful in pursuit of the middle way:
1. Spend Time, Don't Save It
* There can always be more money but never more time
* While we might become dollar "Millionaires" we can never be more than time "Thousandaires" - we each have but 1000 months, about 30,000 days, or thereabouts, to live.
* Moses entreated: "So teach us to number our days, so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom." Psalms 90:12
* How did you spend yesterday, or last month?
* How well did you spend them?
* We should also know the value, not merely the cost of time.
* Blue Thunder (1983): #
This movie, which I saw for the first time in Europe, takes place in a clearly demonic future Los Angeles; as if that city is not sufficiently bizarre in the present time! It stars Roy Scheider as a somewhat disturbed police helicopter pilot, concerned about his sanity. Somewhere he has heard that the first true sign of lunacy is to lose one's sense of time. He begins, and does so repeatedly, to try to estimate how long 29 seconds is. In the last sequence, Roy is still able to estimate these length of time correctly and, in a way pivotal to the story, by doing so, saves his own life.
* We should more often calculate, not how many dollars something is worth, but how long, how much time, how much of our life, it is worth.
2. Let Your Feet Do The Walking
* Tom Owen-Towle (writing about the joy that Thoreau and the other Transcendentalists found in walking)
"The saunterer is one who strolls in measured manner, with one eye on nature, the other on soul, treating land, and all therein, as holy. Sauntering is a mystical adventure. ...It is not the length but the depth of the walk that makes it blessed."
* I find that walking is the best medicine for what ails the mind and body alike; it jiggles things back into place and into their right proportions.
* Walking an hour or so a day, as I now do regularly, I find that I can go as far as I need, without seeking afar for beauty. For beauty is all around, often more in the small, everyday, than in the grand or exotic.
* And another point: Perhaps we think too much, reason too much, calculate too closely. As we let our feet find the way when we saunter, so perhaps we should be more intuitive and less reasoned about other things. Not all choices involve moral decisions or need to be resolved in advance.
3. See More, Photograph Less
* Now as I walk I see.
* When I was young I was very ill and did not walk much. Neither did I see.
* Visiting the Grand Canyon: #
When I was young, perhaps 12 or 13, I got my first camera, a little Kodak Brownie box. I still occasionally come across pictures which I took with it - faded and usually unlabeled. However, I've looked and looked for one in particular because: it was a photograph of the Grand Canyon, the only one I think I ever took of it. I remember the great care I took, trying to find a place to stand, picking the direction and angle, worrying about the sun, etc., etc. But I have absolutely no memory of what the scene looked like. I had expended so much time and effort on picture making that I had missed seeing.
* Thoreau: "There is no death in America, for none there have truly lived."
* There is little insight in America, for few have truly seen.
* Let's do an experiment:
The Hand View: #
Make a fist of your hand and then relax your fingers just ever so to make a tunnel. Look through this small hole, this keyhole. Look at the floor; look at the ceiling, look at your neighbor, look out the window.
* This is the view of the goal oriented, those afraid to saunter, the vacationers who see the world through the camera view finder, and on returning, must look at the photographs to see what they have seen.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat
* To see clearly, one must look again and again and again.
* Then one begins to see the clear heart of things, the essential facts of life:
"I wish to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. I wish to learn what life has to teach, and not, when I come to die, discover that I have not lived."
* M's Lunch: #
While still in university, I ate lunch one day with a young colleague and one of her students in the faculty dining room. There was the usual talk about choices, etc., while we looked at the menus. The student said to M, "I know what you're going to eat," and named a sandwich. M agreed but something about the exchange caught my attention and I asked, "Is it good; have you had it before?" And M answered, "Oh, yes; I guess 80 or 90 times." It turned out that her habit was to pick a sandwich, which she liked and, despite being a superb cook in her own right and very interested in food, eat that one choice every day until she got tired of it. I imagine she really understood each one before she moved on to the next one.
* To live deliberately, one must do and let do again and again and again, until the essential facts emerge, until we see and feel and know the true differences between this day and the last, between our lives and those of others.
* Life is not a dress rehearsal but each moment is a page of a book which improves with the reading, a meal that improves with the eating.
Now perhaps some of you would like to relate your practices in search of the middle way, the things you do to try to remain centered and balanced in the late 20th century.
Hymn: From All the Fret and Fever of the Day (#90)
from: My Symphony (William Henry Channing)
"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony."