Posts Tagged ‘earth’

The Case for Optimism: Episode Three

April 26, 2017

THE UU PATH: Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

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Hallas Midgette

In the first two episodes of this four-part series on a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Coumbus, Georgia on April 23, 2017, Hal told us why he believes the UU path is an optimistic way of navigating through life and explained how four books helped shaping his optimistic worldview. In this episode he tells us how the Seven Principles affirmed by UUs “virtually scream optimism.”

Hal is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.

 Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles and Optimism

Okay, now you know that I’m an optimist and most probably why.  I look at our seven UU principles, and to me, they virtually scream optimism….that we can and will make a positive difference in the world around us, and that our endeavors will be successful.  Let’s take a look at our seven principles and see why this is so.

 

  1. Number one:  The inherent worth and dignity of every person.   We have no apostates….no “unbelievers,” or sinners not worthy of our illumination.  Everybody is somebody and we believe this message can change the world in a positive way.  And, most importantly, it doesn’t matter if they are part of our tribe or not.  All people are of value, and we are equals in that we all are alive, feel pain, love, and want to be happy and safe.  By embracing this principle, we demonstrate our optimism that we can reach out to all, and do not have to segregate others into infidels, sinners, or apostates.  We welcome humanity to our smorgasbord of ideas and love.

 

  1. Number two:  Justice, equality and compassion in human relations.   Justice is the pillar of stability that ensures that society doesn’t slip back into barbarism and to accept it as the arbitrator of events is supremely optimistic.   Nothing is more positive, in action and belief, than to grasp the concept that others, regardless of creed, sexual orientation, or cultural practices are equal as individuals.  While I might not appreciate someone’s cultural views as much as mine, I do appreciate that that person, as an individual feels the same pain and awe of the world around them.   Compassion is the engine that drives the Unitarian optimistic train.  Compassion is feeling and doing for those in pain or need, making the world a better place.  It provides the underpinnings for optimism, it is the tool for reaching out to others, sharing, and loving.  Compassion, coupled with equality forges the empathy that is necessary to care for and about others, including for those different than ourselves, those outside our tribe.

 

  1. Number three:  Accepting of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.  Tolerance is not fearing others, but embracing them with the belief in a positive outcome.  We embody the Nike cliche’ “No Fear.”  We accept that others have a vision of a different spiritual development or path than our own, but we find that okay.  We encourage and assist them on their path and journey.   One has to be optimistic about the end results of embracing our own belief and fostering the well being of others in the pursuit of their own, but different belief.

 

  1. Number four:  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  This is our vehicle for carrying us into the future.  It is the sword to fight the tyranny of ignorance, intolerance and religious bigotry.  This principle makes a break with previous notions that the search for knowledge is fundamentally wrong…..think about Eve and the apple incident at the Tree of Knowledge.  We generally do not believe that all the Truths and Meanings to life have been previously revealed and encoded in unchangeable form to be forced onto others.  We question rigid thinking and eschew dogma.  We understand that the world is constantly changing and we see the Unitarian role as a positive force in that change.  Will there be turmoil and times of gloominess?  Of course, but we see ourselves as transcending those bumps in the continuum…..as a good optimist should.

 

  1. Number five:  Right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.  This is possibly the most optimistic of all our principles because it has a large trust component that independent, individual action will be thoughtful and produce  an acceptable outcome, and even if we are not in the winning faction of a democratic process, will accept it and  carry on, striving for a positive outcome.   Our conscience is meant to be thoughtful, not coerced, or bounded.  How does the carrot and the stick, namely concepts of heaven and hell, and the role of sin play into this?  It doesn’t, at least for the Unitarian Universalist organization, although it might on the individual level.  I find this extremely optimistic.

 

  1. Number six:  The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.  When looking around without our optimist glasses, the world looks a little like Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”  “We didn’t start the fire, It was always burning since the world’s been turning.” Another light metaphor.  It has gotten better over time, but so many just don’t look at the time scale of things and how we, as a species, have improved.   Or, we get too distracted when there are episodes of regional setbacks, like the situation in Syria.  Let’s start at Homo sapiens’ beginning.  Small wandering tribes.  If you weren’t in a tribe or were out wandering away from home when another tribe found you, it wasn’t  “guess who’s coming to dinner,” because you knew the game….protein was protein, and it was you that was going to be dinner.  As tribes evolved into more complex social groupings, congeniality towards strangers became more the norm, especially with the advent of agriculture and the formation of settlements, which eventually became towns and cities.  Human’s greatest discovery after tool making, fire, and language was possibly religion, which helped order society even more and provided the seeds to formalize law.  Then came city states and commerce, then nations.   Now we have international law, a world court, rules for war, though not always followed, the world wide web, and are now on the cusp of full globalization.  I believe there is greater tolerance now than at any other time in the world’s history.  While large pockets of radicals or extreme conservatives exist, they are being more and more marginalized by increased education, and access to tools, like the world wide web, that work to remove the veil of ignorance and localism.  We Unitarians show tolerance for other religions, fight for equality among the sexes, and embrace diversity in its many forms.   I’m not saying that sometimes it’s not crazy out there, that there is still friction to our forward progress, but life and human interactions are unquestionably better than at human’s beginning.  Mankind has come a long way, and the journey isn’t done.  As Billy Joel said in his song:  “We didn’t light it, but tried to fight it.”  We are optimists, we just haven’t tried to fight the fire, we are daily fighting the fire, through words, thoughts and deeds.

 

  1. Number sever:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  Some people believe the Earth was given to mankind to subjugate, to be masters over all the animals…that the Earth was Man’s to exploit…that there would be continuous bounty.  The foundation of most of this belief was formulated four thousand years ago when the human population, spread over the whole globe, was only 27 million people, much less than that of Tokyo’s 38 million today.   The population is currently estimated to be 7.4 billion, about 250 times greater than four thousand years ago.  Because of our value in reason, Unitarians in general accept the scientific method and the scientific wisdom that the Earth is a complex organism of which we are but a part.  As mankind has gradually learned, human cells are called eukaryotic cells and generally are a mixture of a nucleus and organelles or structures, in which, one, the powerhouse of the cell, the mitochondria, is the vestige of a bacteria that took up residence in a larger cell.  Without this combination, there would be no thought or movement.  The approximate 39 trillion eukaryotic cells in the average human, is matched by an equal number of bacterial cells….of over 10,000 different species.  We literally are a zoo.  We are a microcosm of the Earth’s web of existence.  We don’t do well if some of the bacteria living on or in us aren’t healthy.  Case in point is what sometimes happens after we take antibiotics….an intention to kill harmful bacteria, but sometimes includes necessary bacteria as collateral, and consequently causing a disruption in the digestive tract.  Earth doesn’t do well when some of its species aren’t doing well, or become extinct.  While we promote saving the environment, we acknowledge that the world is in flux and always has been.  I am optimistic that we can help those that are blind to see that this current flux, to include climate change, has human handprints and footprints all over it.   Everyday it is estimated dozens of species of animals are becoming extinct because of habitat loss or changes in their ecosystem.  Am I still optimistic?  Absolutely.  Knowing that the Earth has been through at least five extreme extinction events in the past, only to bound back, not just to the level it was before, but with greater abundance of life, I think Mother Earth will survive this 6th major extinction event that is wrought by man.  But, with reason and knowledge and reaching out to educate others, we Unitarians can help in the effort to lessen the effect of this time period scientifically called the anthropocene…..or in layman’s terms…the age of man.

 
Hal uses a quote by  Howard Zinn to sum up his talk.  Episode Four is next.

The Columbus Connection to the First and Last Moon Shots

February 16, 2010

I WAS  AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER  WHEN THE LAST MOON SHOT WAS LAUNCHED,  AND MILTON JONES WAS THERE FOR THE FIRST ONE.

 Georgia state legislator and retired Columbus lawyer, Milton Jones, a friend of mine, was reminded by my post on my visit to the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of Apollo 17 in 1972, that he and his family went down for the Apollo 11 launch.  Here is what he emailed to me.

Apollo 11 liftoff, July 16, 1969, Kennedy Space Center, FL (NASA photo)

Enjoyed your article on the Apollo 17 space shot.

It’s interesting that you went to the last “man to the moon” mission.  Two other couples and Jeanette and I carried our 11 children to Apollo 11 in July of 1969.  That was the mission, of course, which first landed men on the moon.  Jack Brinkley was in Congress then, and he and I were (and still are) close friends.  He got us passes to the VIP viewing area.  It was one of those experiences you will never forget, as I am sure is also true with you.  I could not get over the noise, which really surpassed noise it was so loud, and more of a roaring all encompassing vibration.

Lunar Module Commander Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, is shown working outside the LM (NASA photo)

Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, stepping onto the lunar surface (NASA photo)

Our kids are now adults, but they tell their children about watching man go to the moon.  I hate it that it appears that manned space flight is on the way out.  I believe in too many ways we are going backwards in our country and civilization.  A lot of wonderful progress in a lot of ways, but some retrograde, too, and in other very important ways.

Oh, well, just another example of my old man grousing.

Milton