This has been a hard year. It has been hard even before January came rolling around and most definitely before Samhain 2015. There is a feeling in the air that is difficult to inhale though somehow I’ve become used to it. Between the politics of divisiveness and the growing ugliness we see in the news around and within the American Presidential Race, the humanitarian crises that seem to only grow and not be alleviated, and all that has befallen the innocent – I have wondered about the limits of my beliefs and how they play out in the world. It would be hard for me to say that I am an authentically Pagan Unitarian Universalist. I have a history with these paths through my own family and my upbringing in Unitarian Universalism, but I most clearly come to the UU tradition through Christianity and Humanism. But, still, I find great beauty and wholeness in many of our Pagan paths. I find that I am enriched, as a minister, by observing ritual and taking in the poetry of those events. I am grateful to be invited to witness and partake. And I wish more of our members would lean in to the potential for mystery and wonder to emerge whether through Paganism, Christianity, or something else. It is in some of the growing injustice and pain of the world that I find I am leaning heavily on such traditions for comfort. There is a great song composed by M. Miller called “I Believe.” The principle verse that sticks with me is, “I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.”
I’ve wondered about that verse and that sentiment. With all of that the world throws our way, do we find ourselves getting number to the pain before us? Is it in our own lives or in all those who suffer? I find that I am getting number. I am not feeling my heart break as much as it used to. I am not feeling the pull and push of love for the world. This is worth a commentary on information overload and the nature of our news, but I feel for right now, it is important to see what is emerging in that numbness.
When the flame of our passion, our heart, or our faith goes out, what remains to comfort us? I urged us all many months ago to keep a simple flame burning in our innermost self. What do we find when there is but a wisp of smoke?
For me, as a Unitarian Universalist inspired by Paganism, Christianity, Humanism, and, depending on the day, so many other things – for me, I find myself looking upward to the stars in my time of need. When all other beliefs fade, I look up and am humbled by my smallness. I am humbled by the mystery before me and the possibility of so much more. I look up and feel a kinship with people I will never know who are also looking upward and being struck with the beauty.
It feels decidedly pagan (purposefully lowercase) to be renewed in my lowest moments with such simplicity. There is a wonderful prayer that comes to us from an adaptation of Gaelic runes:
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.
This deep peace is what I find when my flame has been extinguished and the last curls of smoke have faded from sight. I find it when I remember where to look when I am at my most numb. Sometimes it is a long winding journey to get there and reconnect with what was lost, but I almost always find myself there once more – looking upward. Humbled. Silenced.
What rekindles your flame, dear friends? What do you find that you believe even when you don’t feel it? What is the source of your renewal?