From the Minister, Thu Feb 15

Valentine's Day was also the beginning of Lent. The former, we might say, is about indulging certain passions, and the latter about giving up certain passions. Did you have any trouble deciding which to indulge and which to begin foregoing for the next 46 days (traditionally, 40 days, because Sundays aren't counted)?

Whenever Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are co-incident (on average, about once every 30 years), then, a month-and-a-half later, Easter will be on April Fools Day. You might want to be on the look-out for pranks involving eggs. Or those yellow marshmallow chicks.

Something about these paradoxical coincidences speaks an important truth. Is there not something sweepingly joyous about expressing passions even while letting go of passions – as if every day were both Valentine’s Day and the beginning of Lent? Is there not something perfect and right about the resurrection of life and hope and salvation in the very midst of a giant practical joke?

Life is shot through with paradox -- of which Valentine's/Lent and Easter/April Fool's represent two manifestations. Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom speaks of the four existential dreads: death, responsibility for our freedom, aloneness, and meaninglessness. We'd rather not pay attention to these dreads -- but they are the very things to which we most need to pay attention if we are to emerge at last into a way of being that truly loves this life, loves this world, and loves our fellow travelers. Attention to these dreads also takes us into the paradoxes of a full life of fullest love. Dwelling continuously on death, we come to genuinely apprehend the wonder and miracle of this brief life. Grasping that we are responsible and blameworthy for everything, we learn to stop constructing self-blame as a shield against responsibilities right here and now. Beholding the ineradicability of our aloneness, we open more and more to others. Falling willingly into the abyss of absence of permanent meaning, we are able to create ever-evolving, ever-richer temporary meanings.

May this Lenten season be a time of wonderful paradox for you: gainful loss, rich poverty, indulgent abstention, and intoxicating sobriety.

In love,

Check These Out!
  • The Common Reads for 2017-18 (yes, there are TWO): HERE
  • See the Statement of Conscience, "Escalating Economic Inequity" HERE. (This version does not reflect the supported amendments.) Further amendments still to be considered are posted as comments to the post HERE. You can also add a comment to this post to propose an amendment.
  • On the Journey: the February issue explores Love. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The TCC (Tuesday Coffee Chat) takes me to a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Feb 6, 13, 20, 27: The TCC is in Irvington! Black Cat Cafe, 45 W. Main St., Irvington.
  • Mar: Rye: Starbucks, 51 Purchase St. Apr: Eastchester: Barnes and Noble Cafe, Vernon Hills Shopping Center
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

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This week's posts include all three parts of the Feb 4 sermon, "All Your Need is Love"
Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

When People Annoy, Ask Yourself Two Questions. Sometimes people are irritating! They’re incompetent, or liars, or loud mouths, or bullies – maybe all of the above. If you regularly interact with people, these judgments about some of them are likely to arise. How do you put up with people who push your buttons (even though you’re the one who keeps those buttons active)? By learning how to view “difficult” people with compassion, you’ll feel better – and may even help the annoying person. There are two questions that can almost instantly transform irritation into forgiveness, and judgment into understanding. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Outside History. We last heard from Badger 18 episodes ago (HERE). As we learned then, his family responsibilities prevent him from regular attendance at the circle. History -- your personal history, your family's history, your culture's historical background, the evolutionary history of your kind and of all kinds, the universe's history -- is the accumulation of moss on a stone. When the storm waters of transformation have washed away the accumulated moss of your delusions and the clean rock underneath is exposed to the world, does this moss-less condition represent something better? Self-improvement is not the same thing as self-realization -- but what exactly is the difference?

Badger had been busy again, looking after his family. One evening after his return, he asked, "Is there really something to understand beyond the way to be a better person?"
Raven said, "Outside history."
Badger asked, "In a vacuum?"
Raven said, "Where the freshet washed away the moss."
The way to be a better person: utterly inscrutable.
But stand under the history that is outside you --
The co-arising with which you are interdependent.
And stand under what is outside of history --
The undying, unborn, unconditioned,
about which even these negations mislead.
See what happens.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News
This week's e-Communitarian
RE News
Music News
In Good Conscience, Democratically (Cindy)
Practice: When People Annoy, Ask Yourself Two Questions (Slogans to Live By)

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