Minister's Post, Fri Jan 22

Dear Ones, Fellow Unitarian Universalists,

These are our times.

As I remember our fifth principle, the right of conscience and the use of democracy, the word “seriousness” has been in my mind. An article this week by Tom Nichols made the case that the rioters who stormed the capital on January 6 – and the administration of the last four years – were unserious.

The rioters thought they were serious. They killed, appear to have been prepared to have murdered a number of elected officials, and might have thought they were willing to die for what they thought they were doing, yet they were not serious. They behaved as peevish children rather than adults – which reminds us that we’ve heard the phrase, “the adult in the room” a lot in recent years: reflecting that lately rooms that needed to have a preponderance of adults too often had at most one. Nichols said seriousness
“is the burden of knowing that we own our decisions, that our actions have consequences. It is the sense of responsibility that helps us to act without being ordered to act, the instinct that tells us, even when we are alone, that we owe a duty to others and that our behavior affects them as much as it does ourselves. To be serious is not to be humorless.”
We should all revel occasionally revel in our own silliness. Play refreshes the soul.
“But seriousness is the ability to know the difference between work and play. It is the wisdom to know when to stop laughing and to pay attention, weigh our words, and consider our actions beyond the intemperate advice of our own impulses. It is to know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.”
Nichols goes on to say that
“seriousness is the greatest requisite for a stable democracy, because it allows us to think beyond the moment and to accept the weight of duty and communal responsibility. Only seriousness produces the mindset that [is central to] democracy: We are adults who are masters of our own fates instead of irresponsible and powerless children....Seriousness is the civic reflex that allows us to step outside of ourselves, and to consider whether we would think well of someone who said or did what we are considering saying or doing. Children must learn this lesson or they remain stunted narcissists into adulthood....The insurrectionists were so unserious, they somehow got it into their heads that they could overwhelm the Capitol, take Congress hostage, and rerun the presidential election—after which, apparently, everyone would exchange congratulations on a job well done, retire to the hotel for a few drinks, and then fly home with wonderful memories and stories to tell. We know this because, like the narcissistic children they are, they could not stop talking to their phones and taking selfies and videos even in the midst of violent insurrection.”
Extremist groups online often use jokes and arch irony to lure in recruits. They pose a serious risk of seditious violence, precisely because they are not serious people.

This last week feels like a reclamation of seriousness. The tone of Wednesday’s inauguration was serious. I was moved to tears. Perhaps you were too. I must have read a dozen columns from writers, men and women, who said they cried. Who knew adulting would be so moving? As arrests roll in, as judges deny bail for suspects in the riot, and as the White House orders a comprehensive assessment of domestic extremism, the seriousness, the adulthood in the land, feels most welcome.

Covid Watch

Total deaths in the US from Covid surpassed 100,000 on May 22.
Surpassed 200,000 on Sep 15.
Surpassed 300,000 on Dec 11.
Surpassed 400,000 on Jan 15.

That is, it took 16.5 weeks to add the second 100,000 deaths, 12.5 weeks to add the third 100,000, and only 5 weeks to add the fourth 100,000.

But relief appears to be coming. We're seeing a decline in new cases of Covid-19. Ten days ago (as I write this on Thu Jan 21), on Jan 11, the 7-day average for new cases stood at over 743,000 per day (world). As of yesterday (Jan 20) the 7-day average of new cases per day was down to just over 643,000 -- which is still more than we had at any time before Dec 17, but that's 100,000 people a day who aren't coming down with COVID.

In the US, the shape of the graph is similar. Ten days ago, on Jan 11, the 7-day average of new cases per day was almost 255,000. Now it's down to 197,000 -- i.e., back down to what we were seeing on Dec 5.

So: we've passed the peak, maybe. Though another surge is possible, we might well continue to see the numbers of new cases dropping.

Yours in the faith we share,

Practice of the Week

SLOGANS THAT HELP. Advertisers know that slogans work! So let's put them to a positive use. Adopting these slogans as your personal guides and reminders will help bring more peace and more joy into your life. Maybe you could use a little more peace and joy.

Journaling about how you're implementing a given slogan will help internalize it.

This winter’s series has included, “Stay Close to your Resentment,” and “Get Excited.” This week’s slogan is “Find Strength.”

Strength comes in many forms: endurance, losing on the little things in order to win on the big ones. Restraint is a strength. Start by making a list of your strengths. Maybe intelligence, honesty, bearing pain, a knack for recognizing good in others, or just surviving. This’ll help you feel stronger.

Then think about good things you use your strengths for. Notice that it’s good to be strong. Recall times you felt strong – and what your body felt like then. Tell yourself that you are strong. That you can endure, persist, cope, and prevail, and can hold your experience in awareness without being overwhelmed.

For the rest of Rick Hanson’s pointers for how to live this slogan, “Find strength,” SEE HERE.

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