Monday, March 12, 2012

The Universe

A good friend of mine often refers to the ‘Universe.’ She doesn’t mean the huge emptiness with stars, planets, etc. but rather something more spiritual; perhaps a cosmic thing that connects us all. Something God-ish. It’s hard to verbalize but I usually think I know what she means when she says it. Makes perfect sense in the context of the conversation.

My mind has been flooded lately with thoughts I usually shelve for further consideration at some point in an unspecified future. My recent medical situation combined with my obsessive nature un-shelves those thoughts … the ones about what my future does or doesn’t hold. I am an insufferable optimist but I allow myself to consider and plan for all possibilities. End of life is one of them, as unlikely as that is for me at this point. I’ve always been interested in what happens after life is done so it’s natural for me to think about it when riddled with rapid onset of unexplained medical problems.

Anyway, I was thinking about religion today. When asked (on medical forms, for example) I claim Unitarian Universalism. Hmmm, interesting that ‘universe’ is part of my adopted religion. I grew up Catholic but have felt since high school that there was more to spirituality than what I learned in that denomination. I go back there for comfort sometimes, because it is still a part of me in some ways. And it’s predictable and comfortable, like the menu at McDonalds. But in the mid 1990s I became a charter member of a UU congregation.

It is an interesting religion because it is mostly free of dogma. There are principles but it is a very open religion that fosters exploration; specifically stated in their principles: “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” You don’t have to reject where you’ve been to belong; it is NOT a ‘converting to another religion’ thing. The idea is to expand, to learn from the wisdom of other faiths and beliefs. It is my kind of religion and I have benefited from the association. And I miss it. The congregation I was part of had some problems a few years in and I distanced myself from it. The denomination, however, still holds a great attraction for me and I want to join another congregation. I like the spirit of fellowship and the encouragement to seek wisdom from a variety of sources.

My belief in a higher power is complicated and personal, but one component of it is that we are all connected in some unseen way. Something guides us, informs us, shows us various possible paths and leaves us to our own devices to choose the path or paths. My friend’s most recent mention of this topic relates to my medical dilemma and the array of choices I have to make relating to the variety of suggestions being offered by a couple of doctors. She said, “Breathe deep, move forward and let the universe guide you.” Sounds a little like the “hippie logic” I often give to people (maybe that’s why we’re friends) but it also makes complete sense to me. Whatever does guide us seems to build neon signs along our paths, pointing out possible directions. Her advice might also be said as “slow down a minute and trust your instincts.” There is something universal in that way of thinking.

Interesting side note: I have also always been fascinated with the huge emptiness of stars and planets. One of the most memorable visual images of my whole life is as recent as the 1990s … a clear night view of the sky while on the deck of a North Carolina beach house in the off-season. That neighborhood was empty, very little ambient ground-level light from houses, no street lights. I looked up and saw more stars than I had ever seen. The sight was awe-inspiring. What is out there and why does it exist? It is too vast to be incidental or accidental. It is powerful in some unimaginable way yet there it is for all to see. Something connects it all. It is random and not random at the same time.

The universe … something to think about it, isn’t it? It is probably fitting that I do not have a better ending for this post.

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