The Myth of Scarcity, Part 2

We Unitarian Universalists have fashioned a wiser understanding of the miraculous. The issue of miracles was a defining point in our history. Prior to the Civil War, in the 1840s, Unitarian minister Theodore Parker created a stir by saying Jesus did not perform the miracles that most Westerners at that time interpreted the gospels as saying Jesus did perform. Theodore Parker’s preaching career spoke to many topics, most of which were lost on his critics who only heard one thing: Rev. Parker denies the miracles.

This is the tradition we inherit.

The tradition we inherit also includes an older wisdom, which Unitarians and Universalists have been rediscovering and reclaiming -- that “the true law of life,” as a different Parker – Parker Palmer -- said, is the miracle “that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around.” Expand the circle, and it will be full.

Each of the four gospels of the Christian Testament includes a version of the "loaves and fishes" story: five loaves, two fish, and five thousand people were fed. What happened?

The story may, of course, have been fabricated from whole cloth, but that hardly matters. What is it a story of? Fictional or not, what does it illustrate? The great Unitarian Rev. Theodore Parker notwithstanding, I want to say there was a miracle there – even if there wasn’t . . . what? It gets difficult to say what it wasn’t.

There’s a nice phrase that theologian Daphne Hampson uses: “an interruption of the causal nexus of history and nature.” OK. That’s what there wasn’t. Whatever it was that happened that gets represented to us as five thousand being fed from five loaves and two fish, it wasn’t “an interruption of the causal nexus of history and nature.” It was a miracle. Maybe it did not interrupt the causal nexus of history and nature. But it certainly did interrupt the mind’s chatter about its needs and fears. It interrupted obliviousness and allowed people to notice wonder and beauty – the abundance that life presents in each moment. It’s a story that still has the power to interrupt the ego’s defense mechanisms and call us to neighborliness – call us to expand our circle.

Some Unitarian Universalists hit a little mental snag on the word “spiritual.” I grew up with that snag. "Spiritual? What does that mean?" Well, let me try this. It means – simply and entirely -- awareness of the reality of abundance. It means knowing – with an abiding clarity -- that what you have, what you are, where you are, is enough.

It’s one thing to know this in your head. “Right, right, I’m enough. Gotcha. Heard it before. I know that.” It’s one thing to have that cognitive knowledge. It’s another thing to live that truth with every breath and every step.

That’s hard to do. It does not come naturally to us who are acculturated to modern society, and it involves more than cognition. Spirituality is quite a handy word for this capacity for not-merely-cognitive perception of abundance.

The abundance is there. We have but to expand the circle of our consciousness to take it in.

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This is part 2 of 5 of "The Myth of Scarcity"
Next: Part 3.
Previous: Part 1.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Meredith. It is such a loaded word that the unaffiliated masses have claimed. "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual." I have found a practice of deep gratitude and have a group of women I spend time with in nature that call ourselves the Gratitude Girls. We paddle our kayaks under the starry canopy once a week in the summer and snow shoe into snow covered lean-tos under the winter full moon. It is such abundance!