Sunday, October 30, 2016: Fright Management

By: jvoves

THOUGHTS FOR CONTEMPLATION:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“Many people’s tombstones should read, ‘Died at 30. Buried at 60.’” Nicholas Murray Butler

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS

CALL TO WORSHIP:

Alice Walker has said: “When all is too much, when the news is so bad meditation itself feels useless, and a single life feels too small a stone to offer on the altar of peace, find a human sunrise. Find those people who are committed to changing our scary reality.

Human sunrises are happening all over the earth, at every moment. People gathering, people working to change the intolerable, people coming in their robes and sandals or in their rags and bare feet, and they are singing or not, and they are chanting or not. But they are working to bring peace, light; compassion to… human life….”

Come in then my friends, to this place of hope and this time when transformation is an option, to find, or to be that human sunrise. Come in. (Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Ben L.

To face the world’s shadows

A chalice of light

To face the world’s coldness

A chalice of warmth

To face the world’s fears

A chalice of courage

To face the world’s turmoil

A chalice of peace

May its glow fill our hearts, our spirits

And our lives.

(Author composite)

OPENING HYMN: In Sweet Fields of Autumn (#5)

AFFIRMATION

SONG OF ASPIRATION

CHILDREN’S TIME: Rev. Anne Principe, DRE

SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSROOMS:

Go now in peace, go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,

everywhere,

everywhere,

you may go.

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION

READING: from “Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart” by Gordon Livingston

We demonstrate courage in the numberless small ways in which we meet our obligations or reach out to try new things that might improve our lives. Many of us are afraid of risk and prefer the bland, predictable, and the repetitive. This explains the overwhelming sense of boredom that is a defining characteristic of our age.

READING: “If I Had My Life To Live Over” by Erma Bombeck

(after she found out she was dying from cancer).

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, ‘Later…Now go get washed up for dinner.’

There would have been more ‘I love you’s, more ‘I’m sorry’s.’ …

Don’t worry about who doesn’t like you, who has more, or who’s doing what Instead, let’s cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

READING: “The Guest House” by Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

 (The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

“Fright Management”

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson

Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church

 October 30, 2016

Readings:

from “Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart” by Gordon Livingston

“If I Had My Life to Live Over” by Erma Bombeck

“The Guest House” by Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

 

A few years ago, when my granddaughter Delanie was about 8, we went to Disneyland. That was not such a big deal for her. She lives in San Diego and family outings to Disneyland were familiar occasions. She was excited though, to be going with Grandma, showing me things she loved and sharing them with me. We parted company with her parents and little brother for a while so we could have that kind of special time, just the two of us. The place about which she was so excited, and to which she was eager to take me, was a particular scary house. It was based on the theme of a movie or television show she knew, and she thought it looked great. The line was long, as she told me it always was, but she had never been into this scary house and she wanted me to take her. I as up for it.

We got on line, the long line. As we crept closer and closer to the entrance Delanie got more and more excited, jumping up and down, holding my hand. When there was only one family before us at the entrance she turned to me crying. “Let’s go, Grandma. I’m too scared.”

“Are you sure, Delanie?” I asked. “We have been waiting a long time, and you were so eager to go.”

“I know, but I’m scared, too scared.”

I smiled. “That’s okay Delanie. We don’t have to do this.” I thought to myself that she’s gone and scared herself, getting so excited about it.

We stepped out of line. Walked a few steps away. As we turned to look back Delanie said, “Okay Grandma. I’m ready. I want to do it.”

I looked at the long line. “Are you sure Delanie? You want to get onto that long line again?”

Sober, serious, she nodded. This time she was sure.

We waited again. As we got closer to the entrance I could feel her hand clutching mine, tighter and tighter. When the man opened the door and put out his hand for the tickets she took a deep breath, and walked in.

It was scary. She yelled. She screamed. She grabbed hold of my hand, white knuckled most of the experience. Maybe you’ve been through a scary house with a child or two yourself…had that experience. Maybe you remember going through one when you were a child.

When we were finally out, and Delanie had mostly regained her composure, which had surely been rattled, she took another deep breath and said “Grandma, can we go again?”

You’ve had that experience with some kid you know and love, haven’t you? Maybe it wasn’t a scary house. Maybe it was a scary ride- something that went fast. They white knuckled their way through it, maybe screamed or cried. And when it was all over, still shaking a bit, they announce that they want to do it again.

Fright management. It is how we learn to be brave. It is how we learn to have courage. We put ourselves in situations that scare us, and come out the other side stronger, more confident, and more brave. Children do it all the time. They do it on the playground, climbing higher and higher on the climbing wall, going faster on the swing, bouncing higher on the trampoline or in the bouncy house than they ever had before. Learning to be brave.

This practicing to have courage, to take a chance and choose the harder option is not only for children. We know that. Every day we have the chance to practice courage. Sometimes in small ways.

Erma Bombeck,, knowing that she is dying, creates a litany of regrets. Many of them are actually confessions of missed moments of opportunity to practice courage. She says:

“I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.” (from “If I Had My Life to Live Over” by Erma Bombeck)

What she is revealing is how she allowed her fear to diminish the satisfactions in her life. Had she not been afraid of people’s opinion about her stained carpet or her faded sofa, she could have developed deeper relationships, had more time with people whose companionship she valued. Has that happened to you? Lost the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship because of what people might think, about you, about them, about your being together? Unmanaged fear can keep us from the very things we most love and need.

She would have:

“… eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.” (from “If I Had My Life to Live Over” by Erma Bombeck

Maybe, unafraid of mess or dirt, she would have been able to sit on the floor with her adolescent eating popcorn, watching the fire, and heard things told from the heart that never had the space before to venture out.

Maybe. She’ll never know. Fear ruled and closed the door.

When we think of courage, we often think of our warriors and their profound acts of courage. Military training gives our young men and women in the armed forces intentional practice at fright management, so that when the time comes, they are capable of acting in the face of fear or even terror. It is essential for their survival, and the survival of those with whom they serve. But those experiences are life changing. And we do not give them the training they need for managing the aftermath. What is PTSD after all, but fright experienced and unsuccessfully managed. The work goes on long after the terror.

Rwanda went through a terrible period of war, atrocities and genocide. And when it was over, there was a country mired in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, paralyzed by fear and rage. All understandable. After the horror in Rwanda, they engaged in a process of Unity and Reconciliation, which required a kind of courage they had not needed to draw on before in all the years of war. It was not physical courage, but a moral courage and a personal courage. People in Rwanda found the personal strength they did not know they had, they found their desire for healing was stronger than their fears, and because they took the risk to do something very scary, lives were changed and healed.

Two years ago, “…the photographer Peter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly one million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and (he) captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. (These pictures were amazing.) In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers.”[1] This is the narrative, the voices of those in the picture:

Jean Pierre Karenzi: My conscience was not good, and when I would see her I was very ashamed. After being trained in our unity and reconciliation, I went to her house and asked for forgiveness. Then I took her hand. So far we are on good terms.

Viviane Nyramana: He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came to me alone and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him – now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and on my mind I feel clear.[2]

Powerful. Personal courage. Facing personal guilt and culpability. Facing personal rage and grief and devastation. Each one facing their own demons, and seeing in the flesh, before their eyes, the demons that haunt the other. Such courage. Such healing, once unimaginable, became real in the lives of these brave people.

Gordon Livingston says:

“We demonstrate courage in the numberless small ways in which we meet our obligations or reach out to try new things that might improve our lives. Many of us are afraid of risk and prefer the bland, predictable, and the repetitive.[3]

His point is well taken. Most of us have not had to summon the courage demanded by war…or even the courage demanded by floods or fires. But our need to practice personal courage on a daily and regular basis is as necessary to the ordinary life, as it is to the extraordinary one. Lest we forget it, we are reminded by Rumi, who told us eight hundred years ago:

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.[4]

“…each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” (from Rumi)

Each thing that scares us, each thing that delights us, each thing that puzzles us, or makes us squirm. Each thing, if we acknowledge it, if we face it, if we engage it, has a lesson to teach. And we, who covenant to

…seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship,

To the end that all souls

Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.

We have a covenant to learn. May we be so faithful, may we be so brave, may we be so wise. Amen.

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE:

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,

the warmth of community,

or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

BENEDICTION

CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE

May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.

POSTLUDE

[1] New York Times Magazine, Portraits of Reconciliation April 6, 2014

[2] Op cit

[3] Gordon Livingston, MD, Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart

[4] ~Mewlana Jalaludinn Rumi, The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks