I know, I know, I’m an agnostic …

The version of the flaming chalice currently u...

Unitarian Universalist Flaming Chalice Image via Wikipedia

… but these words, shared by the Blacksburg Unitarian Universalist Church’s interim minister Rev. Alex Richardson, moved me enough to want to share them, as I believe one of the ways we save ourselves from small personal hells is through writing. These words are all a prelude, of sorts, to the longer post I’m working on.

This is from a sermon, We Are All About Saving Souls by the Rev. Suzanne Meyer.

“… There are many kinds of private hells in which living men and women dwell every day. These are small personal hells of meaninglessness, banality, and loneliness. Hells of shame, hells of guilt, hells of loss, hells of failure. There are as many kinds of these small hells as there are people who live in them. And from some of those hells, we, as a church, can and do provide a kind of salvation, a release, or, at the very least, a respite. We are in the business of saving souls from those kinds of small individual hells of despair and disappointment that drive people into exile and isolation, separated from community as well as from their own essential goodness.

“… We are saved, at last, by the fellowship of people no better or worse off than we are. What liberates us from those tiny hells in which we dwell all alone is as common as a handshake, as ordinary as hearing your name spoken by another, as simple as being asked to share your thoughts.

“We are one another’s salvation.”

When I looked for a link to Rev. Meyer, I learned that she passed away in 2010. An online eulogy for her includes this George Bernard Shaw quote as a summary of her outlook:

English: Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard...

George Bernard Shaw, Image via Wikipedia

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

It’s possible that I’m going to give up my efforts at original creative writing in favor of readingreadingreading, finding who’s said it better and more accurately before me and then just (re)tweeting those words like mad. Though I suspect that’s not quite sufficient purpose for the “splendid torch” of my life ….

3 responses to “I know, I know, I’m an agnostic …

  1. Stephanie gilmore

    Les, Alex’ sermon was so moving, gave me so much to think about (even though I only listened to the podcast from afar), and now you have deepened that exp,erience for me. Thank you. Thank you for finding the Shaw quote to deepen the Meyer’ quote. That says it for me! NO need for ou to give up the pursuit of writing, sister–just read more and then share as you have, building context around what you share. That is what I find Rev Alex does for me, and it expands my world.

  2. “We are one another’s salvation.”
    Having you in my life definitely makes the above true. Thank you for this reflection. I look forward to the longer piece, whenever it emerges.

  3. I concur with what Stephanie and Rachel each have said… well put, lovely people. And I feel so ready to have read this; did you see my post just a few days prior about “purpose” and being “broken” (or not)…? I am very much in this space right now, and reading your experience and these words feels as if I am where I *should* be (an all-too-rare feeling these days). Thank you for–as ever–your honesty, your depth, your sharing.

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