Call it a spare time—
dark afternoons
and the bones of trees
rattling against the sky.
We could use more hope,
or reason for hope. The sea
is rising, and bombs are planted
in the marketplace. It might
be better to just go to bed.
It might be better to
turn out the lights and wait
for the end to come.

The only other choice
is to dance. That and to sing
sturdy songs that have held up
across the winters,
drink wine the red of blood
that has not been shed,
feast, tell tales of heroes who
strode or stumbled through
their own bleak times.

When in doubt, revel in the darkness.
Each act of celebration is a spark.
Gathered together
they call back the sun.

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There isn’t a right answer.
There just isn’t. The game show
where the bells ring and the points
go up and the confetti falls
because you got the answer
is a lie. The preacher who would assure you
of how to attain salvation
is making it all up. The doctor
who knows just how to fix
what ails you will be sure
of something else tomorrow.
Every choice will
wound someone, heal someone,
build a wall and open a conversation.
Things will always happen
that you can’t foresee.
But you have to choose.
It’s all we have—that little rudder
that we employ in the midst
of all the eddies and rapids,
the current that pulls us
inexorably toward the sea.
The fact that you are swept along
by the river is no excuse.
Watch where you are going.
Lean in toward what you love.
When in doubt, tell the truth.

–Lynn Ungar

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In the Ruins

A man sits on the rubble—

not just in the rubble, but on the pile

of what  remains. No people

in the bombed-out houses.

No dogs. No birds. Just ragged hunks

of concrete and loss. And on his perch

he is playing an instrument constructed

of what is left—an olive oil can, a broom handle,

a bowed stick and strings. It sounds

exactly as it is supposed to sound.

The instrument cries, but the man sings.

Because sometimes loss is deeper than tears.

Because sometimes grief is resistance.

Because, somewhere down the very long road,

music is stronger than bombs.

by Lynn Ungar  11-16-15

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Good Enough: 10 Tips for Sucking Less

October 1, 2014

Recently Christine Organ (a blogger for this UU Collective) published a lovely post on “good enough” parenting in this competitive age. Frankly, as someone who feels like “good enough” parenting is pretty much the top of my game, I appreciated the reminder that plenty of other folks are perfectly fine parents without living up to their own—and perhaps other people’s—expectations.

But I think we can take this a step further. In a world where we are constantly exhorted to “dream big” and “pursue excellence,” maybe it’s time to admit that there are all sorts of areas of our lives that might benefit from a realistic dose of “good enough.” Once we accept that we are unlikely to win a Nobel prize, solve world hunger or marry a movie star, we might consider the possibility that for certain things, at certain moments, we would be just as well off striving for sucking less, rather than magnificence.

Here then, are ten tips for sucking at life just a little less. Please post additional suggestions in the comments below.

  1. Procrastinate better. We all know that there are some projects we’re just going to put off as long as possible. Sad but true. But it is possible to be more productive in one’s procrastination. Choose cleaning the kitchen or doing laundry over solitaire or leaving nasty comments on YouTube.
  2. Be more creative when you yell at your kids. Yeah, excellent parents don’t yell. If you’re already excellent this post is not for you. For the rest of us, it would be good enough to holler “If you two don’t stop bickering I am going to need to claw my eyes out! Either knock it off, do it somewhere I can’t hear, or find me new eyeballs!”
  3. Decide earlier in the day what you’re not going to manage to get around to, and let those expecting your efforts know that they’re going to have to wait. Bonus points if said informative email does not contain the phrase “Hold your freakin’ horses.”
  4. Eat healthier junk food. Yeah, OK, kale chips. Maybe. But really I’m thinking along the lines of darker chocolate, take-out that contains vegetables, dried fruit instead of candy. Unless the candy is dark chocolate, which is a health food.
  5. Take a walk. For bonus points, bring along a kid or a dog. Or not, and have a few minutes to yourself. I’m sure going to the gym or yoga class is excellent, but getting out for a stroll for a few minutes sucks less than sitting all day and all night.
  6. With your spouse/partner, agree to give each other a free pass on one annoying habit apiece. Excellent people fix their flaws. Good enough people pursue forgiveness.
  7. Find something you enjoy so much you can’t wait to do it, and treat that as a spiritual practice. Sure, meditation and prayer are excellent, but singing in the shower or playing tennis is pretty good. Good enough.
  8. Fix something little. The world is full of really huge problems. Climate change, economic injustice and racism are not going to get solved today, most likely. Find something small you can do, and celebrate that.
  9. Don’t obsess over arbitrary standards of what is “enough.”
  10.  See #9 above.
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The Losing Team

November 6, 2014

Another election has come and gone. Some people, presumably, are delighted, while others are filled with gloom. OK, it was mostly gloom on my Facebook page. Maybe you worked really hard on behalf of a candidate you truly believed in, and that candidate didn’t win. Maybe the one who did win is the worst kind of corrupt imbecile, totally in debt to the moneyed interests. Maybe you feel like the country is going to hell in a hand basket, and we are all at the mercy of people who think that Ebola is washing our shores on a wave of Black people and climate change is a hoax invented by scientists who want to further their careers.

It could be that we are doomed, and if your plans for this week should happen to include an adult beverage or a childhood comfort food, well I wouldn’t blame you.

But eventually we always come round to the question of what now. Now that the election is over and we get a break from the ads. Now we know just how vehemently we might disagree with our neighbors or family members. Now that the whole cycle of hope and possibility and things not ever living up to their potential starts over again. Now what?

The same thing as always. Sorry, but I don’t have a better answer. Now we make dinner and pet the cat and read the kids a story and decide what to wear to work tomorrow. Now we look for a job that will pay the bills or an apartment that won’t break the bank or a date who won’t turn out to be a complete waste of time. Now we call our friends to comfort them or be comforted. Now we wait to hear back from the doctor or we wait to hear whether there will be an indictment from Ferguson. We visit the rest home, we take the children to soccer or to dance, we cry or look at videos of cats.

Maybe we remember other elections that swept us up in a tide of hope or despair, and we remember how after those elections we kept on doing what we do. I’m in no way saying that elections don’t matter, or that it’s not worth being deeply engaged in the political process. The government sets policy, and those policies affect really important things like who gets deported, who gets health care, whether people can manage to live on minimum wage, what efforts are made to combat climate change, what kinds of transportation we have access to, whether there is funding for research, what is supported and not supported in our schools, and on and on and on.

Politics matters. Having a voice matters. Speaking up for your hopes matters. But it doesn’t necessarily matter in the way that we would like. Paying attention and voting and making calls and writing letters and campaigning door to door doesn’t always result in the person or policy we support winning. And, sadly, even if they do win it rarely means that everything is rosy and the world is organized the way we would organize it.

Wrigley FieldWhether we get what we want is not what defines our efforts. We are called to care, and to love and to work for justice. Whether or not things go our way at any given moment. I used to serve a church in the same neighborhood as Wrigley Field in Chicago. Although I am not, myself, a baseball fan, I learned a lot from my Cub-loving congregants. The Cubs lose. Everyone knows that. Historically, currently, the Cubs are just not what you would call a winning team. Which doesn’t stop the fans from rooting for their beloved Cubbies, year in and year out.

You love what you love, and you go out and yell on its behalf, following the statistics or the players or whatever markers of success or defeat you might have. You show up and cheer. When your team wins you get a parade. But when your team loses you have the opportunity to gather with your friends and mourn the losses and plot how next year will be better.

Or maybe two years from now, when elections roll around in 2016.


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