A few weeks ago I based a service on one of my favourite texts. This is an excerpt from the reflection. By American poet Walt Whitman, this famous poem is found in the preface of his grand work Leaves of Grass.
This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
give alms to every one that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem and
have the richest fluency not only in its words
but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and
in every motion and joint of your body.
I love this image of our bodies becoming lyrical poetry, objects of great beauty and rich fluency. Imagine a world where our elders are understood as great poetry.
Whitman’s advice from 160 years ago is still sound. Devote your income and labour to the service of others,
Fight against injustice, examine what authority tells you. Be patient with other people.
And while Whitman was suspicious of church, I think that Unitarian Universalism is precisely a place that encourages this way of principled living. Unitarian Universalist communities are intended as spaces for reflection, to examine all the endless information and opinion that is thrown at us everyday and to dismiss what insults our souls.
We need spaces like this more and more in this busy technological world. We gather on Sunday mornings for a moment of rest and reflection. This time together is time to simply be, as you are. It is for self-examination and understanding.
If we all strive to become great poems, through living our seven principles and being grounded in our six sources,
then perhaps our children will have the same ambition.
Pulitzer prize winning poems will be everywhere!