Transcript of talk presented on 8/23/20
for the Unitarian Universalist Gathering of South County via Zoom
Unitarian Universalist Church, Pittsfield

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein


Sometimes it’s by going through the hardest things that we find the truest things.

This has been a difficult time, these past 5 months. Many people have lost someone they’ve loved, people have lost their livelihoods, whole ways of life have been disrupted. Ways of doing things have been called into question. Old beliefs and certainties don’t seem so certain anymore.

 Franciscan Priest and spiritual teacher, Richard Rohr, speaks of 3 stages in life and path to spiritual transformation: Order, Disorder, Reorder. “Order” is foundational: We learn the rules, we get the education, we form our beliefs, we find a religious practice or philosophy that guides us and helps us make sense of life. We find a place that we can fit in. We learn the “dance” so we can be in step with others - usually it’s those others we identify with as most “like us”.

Things go along Ok, maybe we become successful. Maybe things are more than OK and we feel like we’ve made it - we’ve arrived. And so we settle in and we make our self comfy. Then something happens. The container we’ve constructed for our life gets shaken…or broken. Maybe a divorce happens, or a trusted person betrays us. Maybe a career crashes. Maybe a market crashes and all our investments get wiped out. Maybe what we thought we knew for certain isn’t so certain at all - maybe we discover that what we’d always believed has been wrong.

Whatever it is, the fact is that at some point there will be a death, or a disease, or some disruption to our normal way of thinking & being in the world.Welcome to “Disorder”.
According to Rohr this experience is necessary if any real growth is to occur. I agree.

Sometimes it’s through the hardest things that we find the truest things.
And in this finding we are changed

What are the Truest things? They’re the ones that really matter. They can be found when all the extraneous stuff gets whittled away - when all the things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t amount to a whole lot-in other words, they don’t contribute much (if any) value to our deepest being, the soul of who we are.

Some years ago I lost a job and a marriage as well as my mother all within a short time of each other. One of the great sadnesses of that time for me was a realization that I’d been sleep walking through so much of my life - it was like I’d been on autopilot. The grief I felt was almost unbearable.

But because of this realization I became willing to change. First I changed my thinking and as a result of this, the way I approached and lived life. Without the pain of it all falling apart I doubt I would have been willing or able. I have heard similar stories from others.

Re-Order comes with the awareness that has been gained during the disordered time. Speaking spiritually or metaphorically, the time of disorder is a time of dying - there has been a death of ”what was”- and due to this we must die to who we have been or more correctly, who we’ve believed our self to be.

If you think about it,  Life is a series of deaths right from the very start. Many of these are the “little deaths” - like leaving childhood as we become teens and adults, the death of a hoped for outcome, or dreams that didn’t materialize-each of these is a “letting go” we must do.
And then there are those “bigger deaths” that the little ones start to prepare us for (if we pay attention).

ReOrder is what grows out from this. Something arises out of the ashes, something new is born, a transformation of some kind takes place that would not happen if it had not been for the terrible time of loss or collapse and disorder.

Most of us never-ever wishes for the disorder, not even when life isn’t working all that well or when we’re fed up with things. We want certainty- we want to know what to expect and we want to have control - to be IN control- and disorder dismantles all of that.

In my years as hospice chaplain many people have told me about coming through their own crucible, some event or catastrophe, and in that unexpected place discovering something they probably never would have discovered otherwise.

It seems to me that collectively we are in such a time, brought about by a convergence of things, the Pandemic being the latest.
We are being shown something very important. Are we willing to see?

In my own life I now look back at that time of loss and disruption and consider it a gift in ugly wrapping paper. At the time it did not feel like a gift, but today I know it was. Again I have heard similar from others.

Might this time that we’re in now be something like this for our world? Might we look back at some future time and see that this is where it all started to turn and head in a very different direction?

Disorder is a time that brings not only fear but also grief and sorrow as we come to understand that things will not be as they once were. I have learned that grief always connects us back to all our other losses. Individually and collectively we have lost much. To grieve is important.

Unfortunately it is not something our culture does very well. We stay busy and get on with things, thus not availing ourselves of the lessons and wisdom that might come if we face the grief.
But while grieving is important, we should not set up camp and live there. I knew a man who became so identified with all the grief of his life that it became his identity and he could not let it go
. This did not serve him well.

Do not lose hope and do not think that little old you can’t have an impact. Gandhi gave us the key: “be the change you wish to see”.

You do not have to solve ALL of the problems of the world.
Start where you are. Do one thing-anything. Big or small, it does not matter. Start with kindness - to yourself and then to others. Improve yourself in some simple way.

Use this time of disruption and disorder to ask yourself what really matters
to you in life - ONLY you can answer this- then give yourself to those things that matter. All great change begins at the tiniest points. If you don’t think so just look at a human cell.

I was asked recently, “How can we uphold the survival of our empathy, love and caring when we are living with the
threat of death?”
Choose what matters, that’s how.

In my time of disorder someone shared this quote with me:
“When everything is breaking down, some thing else is breaking through” - I wish I knew who said this originally, because they were right. and it certainly helped me.

“What appears to be the end of the world to the caterpillar is just the beginning to the butterfly”
Giving birth is never an easy thing.

Sometimes it’s ONLY through the hardest things that we discover the truest things.