Swerving into Philosophy

I woke up late this morning, sometime around 6:45. The fact that I was awakened in the middle of the night probably contributed to my late rising. Or maybe I was just tired and needed more sleep than normal. Whatever the reason, I woke up in daylight, an unusual and disconcerting experience; I feel like I’ve missed a significant chunk of the day when I sleep late. I don’t like it.

My wife’s therapy sessions will take up the majority of the morning today, so I will wait to go to the rehab hospital to see her until after noon. Then, she has another session during the mid-afternoon, so I suspect I’ll head home early. On the one hand, I’m glad that they are piling on the therapy; on the other, it infringes on my time with her. And I don’t want them to overdo it.

I got a text from my wife around 5:30 this morning, before I was awake, in which she told me she had just been weighed. They weigh her every morning, which is part of the process of monitoring the status of fluid retention connected with her congestive heart failure. The CHF is not new. She has had it since she was in college; but it apparently has gotten worse lately and, therefore, she must be more closely monitored. Changes in weight, especially weight gain, are among the concerns that may warrant changes in treatment. I really wish her cardiologist were involved in treatment decisions, but I was assured by the rehabilitation doctor yesterday that a team of physicians is involved and they take into account all aspects of patients’ health, including details assessments of cardiac issues, etc., etc. They had damn sure better pay close attention and take into account her cardiologist’s assessments.

My sleep last night was awash in dreams I cannot remember with sufficient clarity to make any sense of them. The one element I vaguely remember is that I was advised by someone to sleep on my side for several hours, then to sleep on my other side. I think I recall additional fragments, but I’m not sure whether they were part of my dream or interpretive add-ons delivered by my brain as I tried to make sense of the situation. One’s brain is odd, isn’t it? It volunteers counterfeit context when context goes missing, and then conceals fabrications by interweaving them with reality. Or, in the case of dreams, artificial reality. That’s so very strange; meshing two versions of “reality” manufactured in the mind—crafted from fantasy and context—to form yet another alternative reality. I wonder if that bizarre sensation is anything like the experience of ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms? I don’t think I’m going to find out anytime soon.

Tomorrow morning, I am scheduled to record the introduction to the Insight service that will be posted Sunday as a video on the church website. Last night, before I went to bed, I wrote the ceremonial words associated with lighting the chalice; I found no chalice-lighting words, written and spoken by someone else, on the UUA website that quite fit the situation. I wanted something that spoke to UUA heritage (the theme of the months of summer for the church) and to the content to be delivered by the Insight speaker: the words of Chief Seattle when invited to sell his tribe’s land to the United States.  I think I succeeded in writing something that acknowledges both. I hope I did. These are the words I plan to speak for the video introduction, unless I change my mind between now and then:

As we light this chalice, may it inspire in us
a thirst to strengthen our commitments to
one another and to our Unitarian Universalist faith and
heritage, to heal the wounds of both past and present, and to create a future fueled with love.

As I consider the fact that I am involved in this church ritual, I am once again surprised at myself. A few short years ago, and all the years before that, I would have scoffed at the idea that I would be involved with any church in any way. Yet, today, I am more than casually involved in a church. I sit on its board. I chair a committee involved in long range planning. I sit on a committee that plans programs that would, in normal times, be held in the sanctuary (but now are recorded for video “broadcast”). And more. All of this since joining a church on June 3, 2018; just  a tad more than two years ago. I joined a church? What? Four years before that, I attended the same church for the first time: June 1, 2014. Prior to that, I had not been in a church, except for special occasions like weddings, since I was an atheist child coerced (basically) into attending Sunday school.

I should not be surprised, though. A few weeks ago, I (again, for the umpteenth time) searched my blog for instances in which I mentioned either church or religion or otherwise addressed philosophical matters that mirror the moralities often promoted (but not necessarily practiced) by churches.  I found many, many instances in which I expressed an interest in and even support of the philosophies of religions. I also expressed frustration with their insistence on divinity as reality and with their hypocrisy and with what I considered their bizarre rituals. Yet even in the face of those frustrations, I always noted a seed of possibility. I wished I could find a fellowship (I loathed the term “church”, which I associated with hypocrisy and inflexible religious dogma) that focused on humanity, compassion, and other attributes I felt were central to living a life that mattered.

Writing a blog has helped me record my evolution as a human being. It has, inadvertently, enabled me to capture how I have changed in my viewpoints about many subjects, including religion. I have mellowed, morphing from a rather strident, mocking atheist into a much more tolerant, understanding atheist. But even my atheism has changed. Though I remain thoroughly convinced that there is no divine God in the traditional sense, I now consider the possibility that many people who say they believe in God do not necessarily believe in a supreme being. Instead, they define God in ways that I did not, heretofore, understand (and may not, still). They do not necessarily define God as a being with intent, but as a manifestation of the majesty of everything around us. I might be able to get behind that concept, though I don’t think I’ll ever call the awe-inspiring “everything” as God.

Someone suggested to me not too long ago that I should present “my UU journey,” which gives members of the congregation an opportunity to explore and explain how they came to be involved in Unitarian Universalism. At the time, I laughed it off. But since then, I have decided that, if I were to do that, I have an enormous volume of “stuff” I’ve written that essentially documents how I came to be a “card-carrying” member of UUVC. So, I may one day write a brief synopsis of the intellectual evolution that led me from being a shrieking atheist to someone more tolerant, understanding, and in some cases appreciative of religion and how it can positively influence the lives of people who want and need it. I’ve also come to the understanding that “church” is not limited to the buildings in which religious services are held. “Church” embodies the collective engagement of people who share some core commonalities. A church is more a community than an edifice. That fact once again came home to me during this last week, when several members of that community rushed to offer support and assistance when they learned my wife was in the hospital. Their offers sprang from them automatically because of the kinds of people they are. That, alone, expresses the powerful humanity that resides in church, as least in this church.

Once again, I drifted out of the lane I was in, then swerved sharply into a completely different one. I don’t know quite how I drifted from my wife’s hospital/rehab stay to my dreams to my history of religious skepticism into my “spiritual transmogrification.” But I did it, nonetheless. But, now, it’s almost 9 o’clock. I should shower, shave, and otherwise get presentable. And breakfast wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Church, Dreams, Religion, Secular morality. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Swerving into Philosophy

  1. Thanks, Meg. I am very happy to have done so, as well. Despite a few little challenges, I think things are going well. We’ll see how much progress is made in what time frame. Time will tell. And thanks for the appreciation of my rogue chalice lighting words. 😉

  2. Pat, I am realizing very quickly that it’s necessary to speak out in the face of what appears to me as much of a bureaucracy as a health care system. A retired nurse friend from down the street said she is getting quite perturbed by the healthcare system. I spoke to the social worker today and got the distinct impression that she was a cheerleader for the hospital, despite her assurances that I could come to her any time with any question. When I did, I got what seemed to me to be a defensive response. (My question: “Does the schedule for therapy include “gathering” time for all participants; the reason I ask is that her therapy started 10 minutes beyond its scheduled start time and ended a few minutes early.” Her response: “No, the therapists are expected to spend 1 hour for each hour scheduled. I’ve never heard of a complaint like this, but I will ask our therapist to come talk to you.”) My later conversation with a therapist (who had spoken to the social worker, but who returned only when it was time for the next session) seemed flush with defensiveness, too. Now, I am especially alert to times, people, processes, etc. I wish it were not necessary when the only real concern I have is proper treatment. Maybe I’m being over-protective, but that’s my nature, I think.

  3. Thanks very much, Patty. I appreciate your kind words and good wishes. I hope it’s not verboten to write one’s own chalice lighting invitation. 😉

  4. Meg Koziar says:

    Very happy that you have chosen to be a part of this beloved community, John. Hope all goes well today. I join Patty in appreciation for your chalice lighting words. Meg

  5. Pat Newcomb says:

    John, as you move further into this journey with Janine, you will be learning more about a concept called “patient advocacy” – most hospital and rehab patients these days do need someone who can hold the pieces of a care puzzle together. Different communities have different approaches. It does not necessarily have to fall on the spouse, daughter, son or sibling, though many times it does. If you have concerns, please ask to speak with the social worker that is assigned to Janine’s case as one of his/her jobs is to help coordinate these types of communications. He/she would also be a good person to start with in raising any of your concerns about “unknown’s” – length of stay, types of therapy assigned and why. These are matters that all of us are learning one way or other “as we grow older” – Hang in there.

  6. Patty Dacus says:

    I love your words, John. And, am so happy to have this sneak peak at your chalice lighting invitation…. it is beyond beautiful, and should become a UU standard. I hope you and Janine have a good day, my friend.

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