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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

October 4, 2020 | Message from Dr. Benton


The two hundred children singing in this Virtual Choir remind me of the interconnectedness of Earth and Spirit…of the unity of our existence. It is a reminder of the ancestral wisdom that we, in the Western world, have tried to obliterate. In this country starting with the Native inhabitants and those brought here in chains…to the continual degrading of the feminine. But the wisdom stands…the evidence of which we are feeling on a personal and communal level today. We are slowly waking up to the truth that we are all related…and what happens to one part of creation affects every other part. Of course, prophets and mystics throughout history have tried to tell us…but we have been deaf and blind to these voices…even when we have heard the message, we have been largely unable to connect their words to our own behaviors…in our own times. We have been unable to see their message in the context of our own lives. Howard Thurman writes: Life is against all dualism. Life is One. Therefore, a way of life that is worth living must be a way worthy of life itself. Nothing less than that can abide. Always, against all that fragments and shatters and against all things that separate and divide within and without, life labors to meld together into a single harmony.  It is this single harmony that I hear in our opening recording and in the voices of so many in the Black Lives Matter movement…the single harmony of truth…the singular labor for justice in all life…among the people, as well as for Earth herself. Thurman was in touch with this force…this truth of the unity of the people, the creatures, the plants, the stars, the oceans. He took what he learned from physics and cosmology and applied it to his own spiritual experience in life…the sense of belonging he felt with the trees, the ocean, the stars. He continued: What confronts us at once is the unbelievable immensity of the universe in time and space. Modern studies of the universe deal with cosmic processes rather than with a fixed and therefore limited universe… Life… seems to be realizing itself in the all-inclusive immensity of the universe. The wisdom we hear from Thurman is amazing! The unity of creation was not just an abstract concept for him. He is talking about his own experience of creation…of the oneness of All! A more contemporary, scientific voice trying to explain these truths is Brian Swimme. As a young man he can be seen trying to explain the paradigm shift needed to look at our world…and the entire cosmos with new eyes.

I was having a discussion with my daughter-in-law a few days ago in which we discussed this “new” way of looking at the universe and everything in it. I was asking if she learned in school some of these basic concepts. Our conversation made us both aware of a larger reality than our own lives…larger even than the political situation or the suffering of so many due to the corona virus and other evidence of our maltreatment of our planet. We both said that if all people thought for a moment about this relatedness…this unity of creation…this larger cosmology, we might be able to better respond to our current situation. Through the awareness of our relatedness, we might have compassion for each other…we might be able to come together rather than separate at this pivotal time in our history.

Later in the day, I came across these words of Maya Angelou:

This is, I think, the root of our call to compassion. Angelou admits that she is continually trying to work on this…that she “blows it all the time”. If we are all made of the same stardust…then we must try to stretch…”nothing human can be alien to me”. This is compassion…the realization that we are all children of God…the message Thurman received from his grandmother…the message that has rung down through the ages as a part of our inheritance that seems to have been forgotten. Matthew Fox reminds us that: The word compassion in both Hebrew and Arabic comes from the word for womb. A special bond obtains between the mother and the fetus in the womb, one of profound interdependence. Thus, motherhood and compassion are often connected. Indeed, the basis of compassion is interdependence. I have thought about this a lot recently, being able to witness that bond…of mother to infant…the look in my grandson’s eyes when his mother comes close…the peace he experiences knowing that they are interdependent…that actually in his eyes, they are one.

This “ocean of compassion” described by Eckhart is a beautiful thing to witness and a profound reminder of what we humans are at our core…it is indeed as Maya Angelou instructed. Eckhart also reminds us that, “What happens to another, whether it be a joy or a sorrow, happens to me.” A contemporary of Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, said: …compassion sees us through falling and failing, fearing and dying. Compassion persists in the hardest of times. It is strong, it is our strength. Compassion is indeed our strength…we are strong when we care for one another. We are strong when we realize our common creation…our common substance. Fox continues his consideration of compassion. He says: Compassion calls us to create a society where all are winners and none are losers, a “world that works for everyone,” as Sharif Abdullah puts it.  An economic system, a political system, a health care system, an educational system, where we all have a fair chance and where the dispossessed are not forgotten.  And the “all” is by no means just the two-legged ones, but all our fellow creatures on this marvelous earth. It is this “world that works for everyone” that we are hoping to build…it is what I heard at our last Zoom meeting of this congregation. We heard talk of “Big Love” and of “hearts breaking”…we heard a story of “forgiveness” with the way forward as “feeling it”. We were reminded to see with the “Eye of the Heart.” We heard of the hope that says “we are not forgotten”…and the reminder that “Change is Gonna Come”. 

We need these messages of hope at this time. We are experiencing unprecedented uncertainty and conflict…separation and often despair. And it is often these reminders that bring us back to each other…bring us back to our spiritual roots…Yet it is also part of human nature to move on…to hurry past our heartache…to sometimes try to bury that which we do not want to look at. I notice this is part of so many people’s story. I see it at work and in my daily life. In a conversation with a client on Friday we determined that it was perhaps time to actually feel the pain she had been covering up for so many months…the reality that she was running from. But maybe it’s time to truly look at the reality of our situation…to see what we have done. It could be that we need to look deeply and feel deeply before we can come up with a plan for recovery. This is one of the many lessons from the mystics and prophets throughout history. I can think of no better example than Nina Simone…she felt deeply and at the same time was committed to creating a world that worked for all.

May the spirit of Nina Simone and all of our ancestors tutor our spirits and may we unite…acknowledging and cherishing our interdependence. May this spirit remind us of the need for a “Big Love”, for “forgiveness” and the willingness to care.

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