A gloomy, rainy, chilly, enervating, soul-sucking December afternoon. Carol and I were sick of being stuck in the house doing chores, sick of short days and long dark nights. We went to Wisnom’s Hardware across the street and spent a long time buying five dollars worth of hardware, just so we could get out of the house. But eventually we had to go back home, and watch the world outside the windows turn ever grayer and darker.

So we decided to make sauerkraut. I chopped a two-pound head of cabbage into thin strips, grated some carrots into the cabbage, and dumped everything into a glass bowl. We grabbed big handfuls of cabbage and carrots and squeezed hard to bruise them and begin to release their liquids (this was the best part; very satisfying):

I added five teaspoons of salt (two for each pound of cabbage plus one far the carrots), and mixed it in. We smushed the mixture down with a plate until the liquid rose up over the vegetables: Continue reading “Kraut”

Trying to make sense

How do we make sense out of the recent school shootings?

The Unitarian side of our heritage gives us a strong belief that we can control our own destiny. Instead of assuming that God will bail us out of tough situations, we believe it’s up to us humans to make the world a better place. However, this belief seriously challenged by a senseless act of violence: for although the level of violence has been declining steadily in Western societies over the last few centuries, nevertheless horrific acts of violence still occur. We have less control over life than we’d like to believe.

The Universalist side of our heritage gives us a strong belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person (that’s what universal salvation was all about, that every human is worthy of be saved). But this belief is seriously challenged by mass murderers. Intellectually, we might be willing to assert that yes, even mass murderers have inherent worth and dignity, but emotionally we can’t help thinking that a mass murderer is not quite human, and neither worthy nor possessing dignity.

Another common theological resource we have for making sense of such senseless and horrific events is existentialism: the belief that the world is absurd and senseless, with no inherent meaning or purpose; that whatever meaning or purpose comes from the way we act in the face of life’s absurdities; and even if we do the right thing, our reasonable and moral actions might still lead to evil consequences. For some Unitarian Universalists, existentialism provides no comfort, since it challenges our belief in reason and our belief that we can have quite a bit of control over life. But many Unitarian Universalists over the past seventy or eighty years have appreciated existentialism as confirmation of their perceptions of the world: that it is an absurd world with no inherent meaning, and we do what we can to make meaning out of the absurdity. Continue reading “Trying to make sense”