I took a month off from blogging here in the deep end, though I was posting a few things, now and then, to Tumblr (there are links –>). I’ve decided that, coming off of a month away, I will be blogging for this whole week. Incidentally, this is the week of the relatively new and almost unheard of celebration of Chalica! Now, I know that most of the people who ever bother to look at my Unitarian Universlaist themed posts already know, and have their own opinions about Chalica. Personally, I like the idea, though I don’t see it ever becoming the UU Kwanza or Hanukkah, much less Christmas. It is a nice way to take time to remember how we can apply the 7 Principles meaningfully and purposefully in our own lives, for those of us who care to. Still, I think it moves us towards the establishment of unique traditions and a true identity separate from, but inclusive of, our sources.
For those who find their way here without having heard of Chalica (because we all have to hear it for the first time somewhere), it is a celebration held during the first full week of December, starting on the first Monday. Each day, we take some time to reflect and possibly to make a proclamation or resolution about how each of the 7 Principles fits into our lives and our choices. There are currently 7 Principles, and 7 days of the week, so this makes for a nice fit, don’t you think?
Today, I examine the First Principle (again). It is, in my opinion, as close as we get to mysticism in the Principles. It requires a little bit of faith and a lot of hope and optimism. It claims that each and every human being is a being of inherent worth and dignity. I do have thoughts about the importance of the word “inherent” in this, but I will let the cynicism go for today. I will, instead, focus on the idea that everyone does have that spark, and how we can acknowledge it, and hopefully in doing so we can nurture it as well.
We are all born with the capacity for good, and with the possible exception of a few very damaged individuals, we all have the ability to sympathize with others and try to understand their needs and goals. This is the root of worth: not what you can achieve in the world, but how you can make the world a better place. To often we see things as competitions, and there is a healthy side to trying to be your best, but society has only ever progressed when people shared ideas and allowed others to benefit from and even improve on our discoveries and inventions. The true worth of a life is how it touches other lives and leaves them better for the contact.
Dignity, then, is the flip side of that, in a way. Each of us is a person who is not, by right of birth, better or worse than any other. We can be fairly judged by a combination of our deeds and our stated intentions, but each of those categories is subject to change with little warning. We are all capable of giving back to the world and the community of humanity on some level, and we should be encouraging each other to do so. Acknowledging the dignity in others is a show of humility and gratitude, recognizing that your intellect is something of a universal fluke, and that even the hard work you do with your own body, whatever its capabilities, is a blessing not shared by many because of a misfortune of birth, an accident in their life, or through violence. Trying to see others, whether they share your capabilities or not, as equals who are each doing their best, and encouraging them to be kind, generous, and thankful for their place among us is recognizing their inherent dignity and promoting their sense of worth.
It is important for us to cultivate this belief and the faith in humanity that comes with it. This may just be the only thing about our “religion” that is truly spiritual and requiring of faith. It is a belief that will be tested, almost daily for some. It is one that we will all doubt, failing to see the worth in others and even in our selves at times and choosing to belittle others for various reasons. This first Principle on a list that might not have been ordered intentionally may not even be the most important in shaping the promise of our religious movement, but it is the one that grounds us in our humanity and tells us that we are not truly special or set apart except by our choices and our attitudes. Anyone can choose to be kind, no matter what reputation they carry. Anyone can fail, and yet that failure does not have to define them.
This is the basis of Humanism, as I understand it. As such it is far from a uniquely Unitarian Universalist concept. It stands independent of any belief in God, and stands in opposition to the idea of “original sin” or the limits of human compassion and empowerment. There are Christian, Muslim, and Jewish humanists, as well as the much discussed and often derided Secular Humanists, and Humanism is, arguably, the root of Buddhist thought. It is a Principle that can unite a multitude of personal theologies, even if it is not a universal belief.
On this first day of Chalica, I say to each and every one of you, and to every person on the Earth or in orbit around it, that I love you as my brothers and sisters. You have within you the spark of divinity and life that lives in me, and that energy cries out from each of us to try and connect to one another. For some it is a desire to experience as much of this grand creation as we can, and for others it is an attempt to bring order or security to our communities or our own lives. These are impulses we all have to balance, and we are all doing our best to shape the world into a place we feel comfortable and alive. Let’s talk with one another, and try to understand each other. Human history is a long, wide, and complicated net that none of us can fully understand. Let us each remember that we are, largely, the product of our personal history and that all but the most broken of humans is as little as a tragedy or victory separate from our own lives. They deserve our love, our empathy, and a sense of worth and dignity.