These were challenging words I heard in a sermon two weeks ago. The topic: the loss of reverence in modern society. Lately I have been attending a Unitarian Universalist congregation near my home. Every topic has been inspiring. This one went above and beyond.
I should frame those words in context. The minister was speaking about how we have lost a sense of reverence in modern life. We expect science to solve all mysteries. We prize our mind and intellect over emotion and creativity. We have no more spaces that allow peak experience: a feeling of connection with something greater than ourselves. Our homes, work, churches and nature have been reduced to the quantifiable. Life has become utility; if it is no longer useful, it needs to be replaced.
This is a matter of perspective. In my own life I have small moments of rapture. I notice a particular flower one day, a mushroom the next, a bird or piece of nature or a shooting star. My mind will lose itself in the wonder of these things. How I can be at a particular place and time and experience them. I experience a spiritual connection in the beauty and complexity of the universe. To sound droll; I find the divine in everything.
Sometimes I look at my wife and experience a sense of awe. How amazing to be the one person out of billions to connect with her in such a way, that she would dedicate herself to me for the rest of our lives. How lucky. How unbelievable! I have no problem finding a reverence for humanity; my community, friends and family.
Yet, those words above haunt me. I realized I have no reverence for my own self. I only find worth in my mind. It terrifies me that a random accident could result in brain damage. I am not the brightest bulb in the box, but I can critically think and rationalize to a good extent. But if I suddenly were to suffer severe brain damage, I would want my friends and family to put me down like a lame horse. I do not want to live my life that way; my self and worth resides in my ability to critically think and rationalize.
I am horrified by this realization. I thought I believed all people have unique value, regardless of status. Even the most mentally challenged individual deserves to be treated like a human being; with respect and dignity. I really do have a reverence for humanity, though I may fail in expressing it at times. So where is my compassion when it comes to my own worth? Why do I place such a high position to my own mind and intellect?
It all comes down to fear. I am afraid of suddenly being less. I am afraid of having to depend on others completely. I am afraid of being a burden. I am afraid of being weak. I am afraid of a million things, all of which keep me from finding my own intrinsic reverence.
I suppose now that I realize how much holds me back as an individual, I can face my demons. This is easier said than done in a world that inspires fear: I am not fit enough, good looking, intelligent, accomplished, wealthy, engaged… I am surrounded by induced fear and must conquer it every day.
I don’t want my own sense of worth to be solely dependent on a small lump of matter between my ears. I want to be free from my own dehumanization. My goal is to recognize my own intrinsic value for ALL that I am; imperfections and all. I want to hold myself as high as I hold the rest of humanity.