Death, fear, sin, and other matters
The following questions, based on this issue's contents, are designed to stimulate spiritual reflection and adult education group discussions.
by Jane Greer
Barbara Coombs Lee writes that an acceptance of death can help us to live better lives. In her essay “Compassionate Advocacy,” she quotes a dying cancer patient: “Death transforms living in ways that we in this culture do not understand. I think we need to think of death as sugar, as something that gives life that pizzazz.”
How does death influence the way you live your life now? Would things change if you knew that you had twelve weeks left to live?
In “Playing with the Italians,” Edward Frost writes about a workshop in which participants were asked to reflect on the first time “we had taken an independent action that had made a difference.”
How would you respond to this question?
“The root of so much fear is fear of rejection and banishment,” Francis Moore Lappé tells Neil Shister in his cover story on fear. “We so desperately need each other's approval.”
How does fear of rejection affect your life? How was this fear rooted in your earlier life experiences? How can you “walk in your fear,” as Lappé advises, to emerge as a stronger and more authentic human being?
Forrest Church sees the present as an especially fearful time. “Never,” he says, “have I encountered a higher general fear level.” He attributes some of this to 9 / 11 but the rest to a “pervasive cloud of uncertainty hovering over the social landscape.”
Consider some of the things people have been fearful of over the centuries: famine, invasion, disease, natural disasters. Are we living with more fear today than some of our ancestors? What other times in history may have been as fearful if not more so?
Neil Shister blames the media for fanning the flames of many of our fears through exaggerated political threats and marketing techniques designed to prey upon our insecurities.
What are your top three fears? Have any of them been created or aggravated by the media?
In his article “Let's Take Back Our Time,” William J. Doherty urges busy families to take stock of their use of time, and adjust it, if necessary, to create more balance. “We do not have to live time-starved lives, and neither do our children,” he writes.
Keep a diary for a week of how you and your family spend time. Do you see too much time being spent in ways that diminish your family's quality of life? How can you readjust your use of time to create more balance?
Doherty believes that “we are raising our children in a culture that defines a good parent as an opportunity provider in a competitive world.” He even goes so far as to compare parenting with product development.
What motivates parents to try to give their child every opportunity even if it comes at the family's expense? How does our culture foster such attitudes? What consequences could this have for children who don't have such opportunities?
Lee Barker led the audience at GA in an exercise about the use of religious language. He invited the group to reflect on two questions: “How are you personally deepened by your experience of Unitarian Universalism? And second, what key words did you use to answer the first question?”
How would you respond to these questions?
In his entertaining essay “The Pages of Sin,” Dan Cryer reviews a recently published series of books on the seven deadly sins. Cryer acknowledges that the topic is one that typically sends UUs running. “From our enlightened perspective, we tend to regard sin as at best an overrated concept, at worst a guilt-producing toxin that poisons the well of human relationships.”
How could the concept of the seven deadly sins be useful to Unitarian Universalists? Is there a “sin” with which you especially identify?