Thursday, September 4, 2014

Searching for truth and meaning in social justice projects or looking within?

When we consider the fourth principle of Unitarian Universalism "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning" we might first wonder what the words "truth" and "meaning" mean. Right? What are we talking about here? Is it Truth with a capital T or truth with a small t? And what is the meaning of meaning? Does it mean anything that means anything to me or is it psychobabble, or philosophical nonsense which is best left to the scholars and experts?

I am assuming that what the fourth principle is referring to is the existential question of "does life have meaning?" The Dali Lama has stated that the meaning of life is finding happiness. Slick answer isn't it? Everyone that I know wants to be happy. As a psychotherapist I have had clients who liked their suffering, their pain, their depression because it got them sympathy and attention, what we therapists call, "secondary gain", and playing the victim is great fun for the perpetrator of the game as it creates high drama and makes them the center of attention, the center of the drama and that, of course, you see where I'm going here don't you, makes them happy, as perverted as that may seem to some of the naive and innocent who don't get the game being played.

So the big question instead of what is the meaning of life is, perhaps, what will make me happy? Unitarian Universalism implies, in asking people to covenant together to affirm and promote the seven principles, that applying the seven principles will make them happy. And if this is the product which Unitarian Universalism is selling not many people are buying it at this point in human evolution. You might wonder if the product isn't any good or maybe Unitarian Universalism is just ahead of its time, offering something which most people are not at a place to appreciate and to know deep down that it is something they want and would make them happy.

Most people in American society are hedonists. They revel in the material world where consuming is the answer to our problems. After 9/11 President Bush encouraged Americans to keep shopping, to go shopping, to not let the terrorists win by showing them that capitalism is alive and well.

Osho makes a distinction between pleasure, happiness, joy, and bliss. To share my understanding of his four part model pleasure is sensory satisfaction, scratching the itch, drinking when you're thirsty, eating when you're hungry, sleeping when you're tired, having sex when you're horney. Happiness is an emotional state when engaging in an activity which is aesthetically pleasing, going to the art gallery, listening to good music, enjoying the company of someone you like, engaging in activities that are satisfying and fulfilling. Joy is not situationally related but an over all sense of well being and peace. Bliss is the flow state of becoming one with the all, transcending the ego plane of projected experience.

And so when we say that the meaning of life is pursuing a path of that which we think will make us happy are we pursuing truth with a small t or a capital T, and is the meaning of the pursuit idiosyncratic or something more universal?

Other religions help people distinguish the path to happiness and sometimes are dictatorial about it saying this will take you to heaven and that will take you to hell but Unitarian Universalism is more laid back, it has no one way, but is purposefully eclectic. This is both its genius and its downfall. For while Unitarian Universalism encourages and promotes and affirms a free and responsible search for truth and meaning it leaves the adherent, aside from acknowledging the six sources, entirely on his/her own aside from cultural preferences of every particular UU congregation some of which are humanistically oriented, or christian oriented, or buddhist oriented, or Earth-centered oriented or a potpourri which is of very little help to anyone because if you accept everything, you'll fall for anything.

The UU search for truth and meaning then becomes extremely difficult because the UU adherent is left pretty much on his or her own. The question of what will make me happy is left amorphous, ambiguous, open ended, up in the air, and so with no supplied guideposts, the UU adherent is left to engage in social justice projects in search for meaning or looking within. Of course these alternatives are not mutually exclusive and might include both or even a third or fourth way. How do you find truth and meaning in your life? How does your faith  help you?


  1. The meaning of life is hot dogs. I like to eat em with everything, ya know, make me one with everything.

  2. Meaning of life? Really? That's what you want UU to address? You got to be kidding right? There hasn't been a serious thinker among Unitarian Universalists since Emerson and even he was an air head.

    Look what they did to poor Robin Edgar in Montreal. Jeeesh!