This Sunday: UUFA COFFEE & CONNECTION Here’s a chance express your fears, dreams, hopes, and concerns about the future of our fellowship, our community, and our world. Please join us. Your connections with other UUFA members and friends are important. Sunday, May 24, 2020, at 11:00am via Zoom.
Join by Phone: Use your phone to dial either 312 626 6799 or 646 876 9923.
Then, when asked, enter meeting ID: 160359704
Join via Zoom: If you’ve already download the Zoom app, then simply click on this link to join us: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/160359704
THE DHARMA OF DISASTER by Nate Kojun Hayes
(Last Sunday’s Service, now here in print!)
We live in disaster all the time. One only has to look around, turn on the news, open the newspaper, click on an app and suddenly the tip of the iceberg is revealed; the state of the world, the wars and famine, the murders and poverty. We know this is only a sliver, a fraction of what is reported, presented to us in a slick package, safely distant from our immediate life. And while disturbing, we can also slide our fingers across our iPads, close the tabs, switch apps so we can now move on, back to our own lives of comfort and ease.
But even our own, fenced in and bordered lives, are far from remaining safe. Even on the smoothest ocean voyage, dangerous rocks and currents wait underneath the seemingly calm waters. The perfectly presented life on Facebook is far from perfect, the completely sheltered life is far from untouched, we live our lives traveling from one disaster to the next.
What’s different about this time is that we are collectively experiencing this disaster. To be sure, some will argue that it’s a complete invention, a hoax of global proportions, a ruse. But even they must acknowledge that we are, at the least, living in a time where we are all affected by this disaster. SOMETHING is happening, even if it’s simply the closed sign at your favourite restaurant.
I was driving to a good friend’s house on a Sunday afternoon when I received a text from another friend, informing me that Ohio University had canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester. In one sentence, my income vanished. The spring sales from large events, the profits used annually to catch up on rent, taxes and bills and provide some small measure of security before the slow-down of the summer season, all gone with a pleasant chime on my phone. Later that evening I broke down in sobs in the arms of my friend, inconsolable as the reality continued to hit.
The next few days I remained immobile on my couch, watching the spring rain patter against my windows. Why had the past few years gone so horribly? Why had this pandemic hit so suddenly, stopping everything in its tracks? Why had the business I opened with my sister not gone the way we wanted? Why had my parents succumbed so devastatingly to Alzheimer’s? I continued to spiral, adding a long litany of instances, disasters, calamities.
A few days later, I checked the news and realised that nothing was under control. Throughout the day I witnessed my friends freaking out, my customers crying, messages from the government mixed and confusing, at the best of times. Things were about to get a lot worse.
And so I ordered a giant dumpster and rolled up my sleeves.
For the next few weeks I worked on sweeping away the cobwebs of my life. After my marriage fell apart, I was left, literally, with the wreckage. I cleared out old, mildewed furniture, bags of old clothes long fallen apart from disuse. As I dug deeper into closets, I uncovered boxes older than most my friendships. Containers full of my high school summers, dusty with memory. Occasionally an object would strike me with a remembrance so heavy that I would stop, sit and be silent. Then into the trash it went. It was a powerful lesson that things, stuff, objects that once meant something quite significant in my life would not lose their power or place in my memory. But that also meant they didn’t need to sit in a box at the back of a closet for 15 years, never seeing the light of day. As I purged, my heart grew lighter. The departure of so much stuff somehow lifting me up as if the weight of their accumulation not only weighed down my home but also the dwelling place of my soul.
After much cleaning, the floors were scrubbed, the windows opened, the light and breeze welcomed in. The dumpster was hauled away and I could see the ground again.
Around me, spring continued to arrive and the fires continued to burn. Friends lost their jobs, the death toll increased.
I began to sit down and practice my meditation more. I just simply had hours to fill. During this time, I began to think about what else I needed. Surely, now that the house had some cleaning done, perhaps it was time for me to spend some money (money that I didn’t have) on some new things?
I noticed a lot of people on Facebook were posting About all the stuff they were buying from Amazon. Along with this came affirmations of, “Now that I’ve purchased this, I can enjoy my quarantine.” Of course, this also came with the exclamation, “If only I had (fill in the blank), my quarantine would be so much more enjoyable.”
I often said if I didn’t have to worry about money that I would enjoy the forced time off. I thought perhaps I should buy a new meditation cushion, maybe it was time to get that expensive statue for my alter that symbolises cutting yourself off from attachment (how is that for irony?). As I sat there, pondering purchasing more instead of actually meditating, I began to realise that we are so stuck in this idea: that if only we have something new, something more, something ELSE than what we have…If we have that, well then, life would be grand. I could finally meditate better with a nicer cushion. I could enjoy my time off if I had a bigger check from the government. If I had a partner, I wouldn’t be lonely during this time of isolation. Fear of missing out on a BETTER life, a more COMPLETE life, a happier version.
The truth is that the only thing we are ever in danger of missing out on is the one thing we have in front of us all the time: our own lives.
Dwelling so much on what more is needed to make us happy, we are blind to not only what we already have but simply what we always have that needs no addition: our lives.
Sure, I wasn’t happy about some things. I was really worried about money. But when hadn’t I been? I was concerned for my business but what day since I opened it had not been rife with concern and anxiety?
If I opened my eyes I could see a community that supports me. Generosity of grocery store gift cards, large tips on orders meant to sustain me, letters of encouragement. One day a friend dropped off what can only be described as a king’s bounty of groceries. I didn’t ask for it and he didn’t ask for recognition. Simply a friend and his wife, filling my pantries and my fridge because they loved me and wanted to help. There’s no Prime Shipping option on genuine generosity. The speed with which that reaches your heart cannot be tracked with any maps or app.
The delusion that my life needed something more to make it complete fell apart. Surely the sunlight through the windows and the birdsong each morning is enough. Surely the simple life I have, needed nothing more. A walk at sunset each night and the fields spread before me full of singing frogs and flickering fireflies could not be improved upon.
One time, I was talking to a class about Alzheimer’s and the people in the family that experience it from a caretaker’s perspective. At the end of the session, one question from the participants really hit home. He asked, “What is the biggest piece of advice you can give for anyone beginning to go through this? What is the most important thing they can do for their loved ones?”
I replied, “Give them your time. You may reach the end of this with them and have some regrets; you may think that you didn’t do enough, you may think that you handled some situations incorrectly. There really is no playbook to consult, there’s no ‘one answer fits all’ for this kind of tragedy. And when you look back and see the moments you regret, be gentle with yourself. You did the best you could and that’s all that anyone can do. But what you don’t want to regret is that you didn’t give them your time. I look back now and I say to myself, ‘Thank God I spent the time with them that I had. How grateful I am for the multitudes of days and nights at their side, the weekends devoted to them, the time that was always slipping away.’ In the end, it is the one treasure that we truly have to give to each other. It’s the most precious thing you have to give to anyone.”
The other day, a distant friend who is struggling with the pandemic, asked me how she could possibly handle the required isolation, the frustration and the worry. I think the same answer applies to both of these questions.
But perhaps, for this, we give this time to ourselves. We give ourselves patience, kindness, ease, forgiveness for not knowing all, or perhaps, any answers.
We don’t need to be chipper or optimistic, we don’t need to have faith in the future. We can let go of those ideals of our better selves and simply be who we are. If we are afraid, be afraid. If we are crippled with anxiety, make sure there is a pillow for your head on the floor. If we are wrapped in despair, pull that dim blanket closer around you. Be who you are. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that’s all you’ll ever be.
Life is changing, we are changing. The world is changing. Who knows what our world will look like tomorrow? A month? A year? There’s a very good chance it could be worse than it is now. But there is also a guaranteed chance that we do not know.
The Dharma of disaster lies within the beauty of not knowing. This is scary. Hell, this is terrifying. But let’s be honest for once…when isn’t it? Life is full of disasters and pitfalls and ambushes. And yet, we’ve made it this far. That is an undeniable truth: you have made it this far. I have faith you will go further.
When I was very young, I began a lifelong habit of peering into puddles of water, looking for moths, flies, spiders, any small creature that had fallen in, treading water and trying desperately to survive. I used to get in such trouble with my parents! Imagine me, young and muddy and grinning because I had rescued a moth from a dirty puddle in the driveway, right before church or school or someplace that required clean clothing.
I have never stopped.
Let’s not give up faith that even now, a hand may be reaching down to lift you up from the cold waters. Let’s not give up faith that the ground beneath the waves is closer than you think and perhaps this last wave will push you ashore.
by Nate Kojun Hayes
NOTE: Nate’s business, Athens Uncorked, has been adversely affected by the pandemic. Please check out his “take and bake” menu of his famous appetizers on Facebook, by calling 740-589-7222, or by emailing Athensuncorked@gmail.com. Admit it….you want more of his Artichoke Parmesan Dip with pita and chips, reasonably priced at $12 for you to take and bake! Other yummies and wine available, too.
Date: Mon, May 18, 2020 at 12:35 PM
Subject: Letter Writing Help -Create Safe, Fair and Accessible Elections in Ohio
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The UUFA board’s next meeting will be on ???? All members are invited to attend.
The UUFA programming committee’s next meeting will be on Sunday, May 24th at 7pm via Zoom. At our last meeting, we talk about how often to do summer services, whether we can and should gradually open in person services, whether we should just do “check-in” kind of services, etc. All members are invited to attend. Contact a programming committee member for Zoom login information.
FUTURE SUNDAYS Especially if you were formerly on our pre-pandemic schedule of presenters, please let us know if you’re willing to do an interactive Zoom Sunday service. The next programming committee meeting is Sunday, May 24th at 7pm via Zoom.
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