Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Life Stories - Harry H.

I am beginning today to do a series of interviews of people who are willing to share with others what they have learned about life and what is important to them.

Spirituality has to do with what is of ultimate concern. It is about the sense we make out of life. These understandings are very important to the individual and may be of interest and value to others.

The life stories involves email interviews with people who are willing to share what they have learned about life.

This first interview is with Harry H. who has graciously consented to my publishing his responses to the questions about life which I posed to him. This will be a presented on the blog as a series of articles which are divided up sections of the whole interview.

People are invited to leave comments that are respectful, considerate, and speculate on the major themes, metaphors, meaning, and inspiration of what they read in the interview.

David Markham - Harry, Rev. Scott Taylor, the Associate Minister at First Unitarian of Rochester, said in a sermon that we should pay attention to what breaks our heart. This reminded me of Thich Nhat Hanh saying one time that if you want to understand a person you must find out where they suffer. So what has breaks your heart? What has made you suffer the most in life?

Harry H. - I think of everything it was the break up of my marriage after 27 years. We had four children together and I loved her dearly and still do. Even though we have been divorced for 10 years now and I have gotten on with my life, I still think of her almost every day. I have accepted the divorce and I am happy but I married for life, I believe in the vows I took to God to be there for her under thick or thin, in good times and bad til death do us part.

If I said that what has helped me the most with my grief and lonliness, I say it is my faith. Socrates said, if you marry and it is good you will be happy. If it is bad, you will become a philosopher. I have become a philosopher.

David Markham - You're a Unitarian Universalist, right?

Harry H. - Yes, not my whole life, but for the last 10 years or so.

David Markham - Has your Unitarian Universalist faith helped you with your grief and loneliness?

Harry H. - Oh yes, a great deal. Unitarian Universalism informs us that there are no answers only the search. The fourth principle is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Life isn't over until the fat lady sings as they say, and so we continue to look for truth, meaning, and the sweetness in life. If anyone tells you, they know the answer, you might want to listen, but also realize that it is only a partial answer. You have to find your own truth. I also believe strongly in the second principle which is the belief in "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations." I am not bitter. I tried to divorce in a way that we both felt like we had treated each other fairly. The first principle says that every person has worth and dignity and so I have always tried to be respectful and constructive no matter how angry and hurt I was at times.

I would guess that for most people their biggest hurt, the greatest source of suffering comes from their relationships because for one reason or another they have lost a relationship that was very important to them. Relationships are our biggest source of pleasure and also our biggest source of sorrow. To live a good life we have to learn how to manage our feelings about them otherwise our feeling can lead to great agony and destructiveness.

David Markham - Has your involvement in church helped?

Harry H. - Enormously. There are people there who are like minded. We share similar values if not always similar beliefs and opinions. UUs respect each other and have learned not only how to tolerate diversity but to appreciate it seeing how it enriches people. People have been very supportive. Everyone has their story and they seem so willing to listen and when appropriate share. As the Beatles sang, "I'll get by with a little help from my friends."

This is section #1 from the Life Story interview of Harry H.


  1. I am struck how Harry H. says that the biggest source of suffering in life is relationships. I had never thought of life that way. I guess that means we need to treat each other fairly and with dignity if we are to be happy. People seem to value money more than relationships these days or was it always that way? I think UUs have their values straight when their first principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person. It would be quite a different world if we lived up to that value.

  2. I like what Harry said about church helping. It was a big help to me when I went through my divorce. People didn't take sides but they were there for me. It is interesting how when a couple divorces and they both have been attending church one stops coming. The way the congregation responds to this "death of a marriage" is very important to both spouses. I am not familiar with much of a literature on this topic. Is it often discussed in leadership circles?

    I know my church was great. The pastor reached out to both of us and was there for us both, and it really helped that the kids still went and could see their friends and other caring adults. Churches can be sources of stability in rocky family times.

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