Showing posts with label Life Stories - Harry H.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life Stories - Harry H.. Show all posts

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Life Stories - Harry H. 3

David Markham - So what brought you to Unitarian Universalism?

Harry H. - It was nothing dramatic, not like St. Paul being knocked off his horse, not like going to a tent revival and being born again. I was lonely, living on my own, and feeling disconnected, kind of isolated. I missed going to church but didn't want to go back to a Catholic Church. I was talking to one of my daughters on the phone around Christmas and I mentioned to her that I was thinking of visiting some churches and out of the blue she said to me that I should go to a Unitarian Universalist church. I knew of one about 25 miles from where I was living and so, as a New Year's resolution, I promised myself I would check it out. So, I started going and I started reading more about Unitarian Universalism and I liked what I was finding out. I also went on and took the survey there about "what religion is best for you" and it made me laugh because when I finished the survey and the results popped up it said my #1 match was Unitarian Universalism and my worse match #36 or something like that was Roman Catholicism. I fell away from Unitarian Universalism after a year, but then about 6 months later I came back and now consider myself a good Unitarian Universalist. It is my religion of choice not of birth. I call myself a Roman Catholic Unitarian Universalist because there is some of my religious past which I cherish and it has transformed into something even more precious to me with my Unitarian Universalism. I laugh because the Unitarian Universalists will accept me with my Roman Catholicism but the Roman Catholicism would not accept the Unitarian Universalsim. That's why I call myself a Roman Catholic Unitarian Universalist and not a Unitarian Universalist Roman Catholic.

David Markham - It sounds like you have really struggled with your faith, given it a lot of thought and experimentation.

Harry H. - Yes, it has been a life long journey. One of the things I really like about Unitarian Univeralism is the fourth principle, the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Unitarian Universalism has taught me not to be afraid any more. It is okay to question, to explore, to experiment, to open my mind and heart to life in a way that most religions don't. Most religions want you to conform to their belief system if you want to be accepted by them. Unitarian Universalism has no belief system other than the value that a person should seek the truth for oneself with the help of one's fellow seekers.

David Markham - Does it bother you that Unitarian Universalism doesn't provide the answers to life's ultimate questions?

Harry H. - At first it did. I couldn't understand what this religion, this Unitarian Universalism, was about. I would enjoy the jokes about UU not believing in anything so UUs will fall for anything, but I came to appreciate that that is not true. UUs who live their faith are very courageous people. They are willing to tolerate anxiety and ambiguity and appreciate that most of life is a mystery. We can't know it completely only little parts of it. The answer that UU provides is that each person has the existential responsibility to make sense of one's own life within a broader  context which society and culture provides. Unitarian Universalism is not for the immature and highly anxious. It is a faith for grown-ups if you know what I mean who are at a place where they can reflect on their own life experience and open their hearts to others. This approach is relatively rare in the religious world, very unique really, and the numbers in the denomination show this. I have become accustomed to the search, and I am enjoying journeying in the caravan with like minded seekers.

David Markham - Harry, I have enjoyed our conversation immensely and we could go on for hours, but I don't want to take advantage of you, and I frankly, am getting tired, so I would like to close our interview and I am wondering if you have last thoughts or ideas you would like to leave me and our audience with?

Harry H. - Dave, I have enjoyed this immensely. It is rare that a person gets a chance to tell his/her personal story about their life to someone who is genuinely interested. I appreciate very much what you are doing with this Life Story project and I wish you and all the people who take an interest well. I think as human beings the largest challenge we have in life is to make sense of it. We all, at some level question, why we are born, what the purpose is for our lives, and what happens when we die. I have said to myself since I was a little boy, "It's not a bad life if you know how to live it." For every human being we have to figure out how to best live our lives so we can be happy and we can contribute to the happiness of others. The ability to reflect on our experience as we go along, learn from it, and improve our functioning is what life is all about, and as I mentioned before this is always done with help from our friends. Thanks for giving me your attention and care.

David Markham - Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

This is section #3 in Life Story interviews with Harry H.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life Stories - Harry H. 2

David Markham - Harry you said that relationships you believe have caused the most suffering in your life. Can I ask what has been your greatest fear?

Harry H. - I think it has been that I'm not good enough, that I am defective in some way, that I am inadequate and will come up short. My biggest fear is shame.

David Markham - Where does that come from?

Harry H. - Probably from my father. I was always afraid of him. He would call me and my brother names and sometimes he would get angry and hit us. He and my mother would fight and I would feel very scared. As a small boy I avoided him and was always on guard around him because I didn't want to upset him. I was never sure about what might set him off.

David Markham - Has your faith helped?

Harry H. - Well sort of, but in many ways it made my sense of inferiority even worse. I was afraid of committing mortal sin and going to hell. I was raised Catholic and so when I was 7 I made my first confession and had to tell the priest all the things I did wrong and that I had done bad things. It was a relief to get absolution and feel at least for a while, until I inevitably sinned again, that I was all right and that God could love me at least a little bit and wouldn't send me to hell.

David Markham - It seems that a lot of people were raised with the idea of a vengeful God who would send people to hell for any number of reasons for all eternity.

Harry H. - That's right and when I became an adult, not until my late 30s I think did I realize that a loving God would not send any one to hell for all eternity. On my own I slowly became a universalist before I even new that there was a religion called Universalism. When I realized this it made so much sense to me and my fears subsided about my sinful nature or anyone else's for that matter.

David Markham - So it sounds like you came by your universalistic beliefs on your own without any special introduction or teaching.

Harry H. - That's right. It just logically made sense to me. I wondered why religion put the fear of god into people and then I realized it was the way that the religious people like the priests and nuns had control and power over people. They scared people with this boggy man theology. I certainly worked on me for years. I started to loose my belief in the God of my youth and young adulthood. It didn't make sense to me any more. I didn't come to Unitarian Univesalism though until my  middle 50s. I had just fallen away from Catholicism and probably would have called myself an agnostic or a humanist if anyone had asked me.

David Markham - So what brought you to Unitarian Universalism?

This is section #2 of the Life Stories interview with Harry H.

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.
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