UUS:E Members Stand on the Hartford City Line for the Black Lives Matter

 

Photo by Rev. Heather Rion Starr

Photo by Rev. Heather Rion Starr

On Monday, October 5th, several members of UUSE joined a hundred others at a Moral Monday CT rally for racial  and economic justice.  The rally began at the Unitarian Society of Hartford. Unitarian Universalist Association staff from Boston were in attendance.  Particiapants marched out to the corner of Bloomfield and Albany Avenues under the banner “Black Lives Matter”, where about 30 of us moved into the intersection and stopped traffic for approximately 20 minutes.  Four members of UUS:E were among the City Line Dozen arrested: Al Benford, Sue McMillen, Joan Macomber and Christine Joyner.

In addition, Rhona Cohen and Lisa P. Sementilli, Co-Chairs of the UUS:E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee were there along with Rev. Pawelek, Polly Painter, Nancy Parker, Gene Sestero, Bob Hewey, Carol Simpson and many others.

Why the Hartford City Line? We were there to dramatize the stark economic difference between Hartford and the surrounding suburbs. Hartford is Connecticut’s capital city—the insurance city—and yet one of the poorest cities in the nation.  Hartford is 84% black and Latino.  Per capita income is less than $17,000/year and about half of the city’s children live in poverty. The corner of Prospect and Albany is the dividing line between wealth and poverty, a potent symbol of racial and economic injustice in Hartford. That’s why we stood there for this particular action.

If you didn’t make it but want to help:

There is more to come. Moral Monday CT leader, Bishop John Selders said, “we will continue to carry the gospel of justice beyond the City Line.”

More coverage: 

http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/12-Arrested-in-Black-Lives-Matter-Protest-in-Hartford-330770352.html

http://foxct.com/2015/10/05/protesters-chant-black-lives-matter-at-moral-monday-rally-in-hartford/

http://www.courant.com/breaking-news/hc-hartford-protest-1006-20151005-story.html

 

Beyond the Last Ridge: Reflections on Devotion

Rev. Josh Pawelek

Last Ridge“I always thought I’d have little girls / and be a good mom, be the mother / I never had, teach them how to make pies / and how to get past wanting to quit, show them / the place in our minds beyond the last ridge / where we can rock the cutter endlessly, the place where there is no time and how to / tightly crimp the edge with alternating thumbs.”[1] Words from Northern California-based poet and artist Lin Max’s “The Piemaker.” I offer these words as a starting place for reflections on devotion, on what it means to be devoted, on what it means to give our hearts so fully that the giving shapes the direction of our lives.

Devotion is our ministry theme for May. Devotion in a religious context may strike some of you as one of those haunting theological words that make some Unitarian Universalists bristle; one of those words that doesn’t quite mesh with a more liberal, modernist, questioning, skeptical, agnostic, atheist or Humanist approach to religion; one of those words you may have left behind if you’re one who left behind a more conservative religious life. Given that, let me be the first to say there are good reasons5-13 ridge 4 why we might bristle. Devotion—especially religious devotion—can and does go horribly wrong. And yet the poet offers a glimpse of something powerful, something of great value devotion imparts to the devoted. It teaches patience. It teaches how not to quit. It reveals “the place in our minds beyond the last ridge … the place where there is no time.” I’m curious about this place. Aren’t you? The poet seems to be referencing the place we might come to in a peak spiritual experience, or at the culmination of a spiritual journey—a place where our body, mind, heart and spirit are aligned; a place where our inner and outer worlds cohere; a place where we know our purpose and we let it be our guide. I’d like to go there. While I’m pretty sure pie making is not my path to it, I’m also fairly confident none of us can get beyond the last ridge without some degree of devotion.

In its most basic, secular sense, if we’re devoted to something or someone, it means we care deeply about that something or someone and our actions demonstrate that care. We feel loving, loyal, supportive, enthusiastic towards that something or someone. We’re willing to take risks on behalf of that something or someone. We give our hearts to that something or someone. For me this is a basic definition of devotion: the ongoing giving of a part of ourselves to something or someone. And in that giving, we become more whole.

A week ago I attend a vigil in North Hartford organized by Mothers United Against Violence to mark the one year anniversary of the murder of a young woman named Shamari Jenkins.[2] The minister who leads this group, the Rev. Henry Brown,[3] is one of the most devoted people I know. A one-time victim of gun-violence, he is crystal clear in his purpose: to support and minister to the families of the victims of violence; and to do whatever he can to end violence on Hartford streets. During the vigil a group of young men joined the crowd. They were drinking whiskey and smoking what looked like pot, though I wasn’t sure. While I know not to make assumptions about anyone based on looks, they looked tough, and the question crossed my mind: could these young men could be dangerous? I had no idea what to do other than ignore them. The police ignored them too. But Rev. Brown didn’t. In the middle of the vigil he confronted them. He scolded them. He said, into his bullhorn, “put that away.” “Show some respect for this family.” “Either you’re here to support this family or not. If not, then leave.” They left.

Rev. Henry Brown of MUAV

Rev. Henry Brown of MUAV

Confronting a group of young, whiskey-drinking men is risky on any corner anywhere. I’m sure Rev. Brown had a much better assessment of the actual risk than I did. And whether it was risky or not, he did it. This giving a piece of himself to a family that has lost a daughter to violence; this giving a piece of himself to make sure their dignity is honored; this giving a piece of himself to say, once again, that we must end violence on our city streets: this is devotion—

to the family, to victims, to neighborhoods where these murders happen, and even to the tough-looking young men he confronted. Rev. Brown knows something of what it’s like beyond the last ridge. He knows his purpose. He patiently conducts his ministry. He resists those demons that council him to quit. He is passionate about what he’s doing.

Rev. Howard Thurman

Rev. Howard Thurman

As a minister—as your minister—the question that seems most critical for me to ask you is “What are you passionate about?” You’ve heard me ask this question from the pulpit. Many of you have heard me ask it in one-on-one meetings or in small groups. I ask this question because I’m convinced people pursuing their passions are truly living their lives. They’re awake, inspired, generous, open, committed. We read earlier from the Christian mystic, Howard Thurman: “Keep fresh before me the moments of my High Resolve, that in good times or in tempests, I may not forget that to which my life is committed.”[4] I’m mindful of another quote from Thurman: “Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who’ve come alive.”[5] For me this is another way to describe how it feels when we arrive beyond the last ridge: fully alive and blessing the world.

So when I talk about religious devotion here—liberal religious devotion, Unitarian Universalist devotion—I’m looking for the extent to which your life is oriented toward your passions. What portion of your day is devoted to giving some part of yourself to that something or someone you care deeply about? How much opportunity is there in the course of your week to open your heart fully to that something or someone you love? In your life is there sufficient room to take the risks your passion requires? Religious devotion is a quality in us—a quality we can cultivate—marked by focus, patience, practice, purposefulness, resolve, clarity, a striving for what matters most. The word devotion comes from the Latin devovere, which translates as consecrate. When we consecrate something or someone, we make them sacred. I’m suggesting that as we devote our lives to the things and people we’re passionate about, we make them sacred. My continual prayer for us is that we may have in our lives sufficient if not expansive room for consecration—room to devote ourselves to what matters most. Through our devotion, which is always a giving away of some part of ourselves, may we live fully. May we find wholeness. May we bless the world.

Having offered this prayer, let me offer a caution: devotion can sometimes lead to conflict in communities. Rev. Brown is outspoken about the need to end violence on Hartford streets. His devotion inspires him to challenge and critique elected officials, the police, clergy, neighborhoods, drug dealers, gang members—anyone whose actions, or inactions, undermine attempts to end violence, he calls them out. And as you may imagine, there are many who don’t appreciate being called out. He generates conflict—and I think it’s a necessary conflict when we pause to consider what is at stake.

Exploring religious devotion in our own lives, it’s important for us to recognize that our devotion may bring clarity and a singularity of purpose to us, but that others may not share it. When we name it, when we act on it, it can be alienating to those who don’t share our passion. Thus, our devotion can set us apart, make us stand out, make us wonder: Why don’t others take this as seriously as I do? Our devotion can, in fact, lead us into isolation, into loneliness, and into disagreement. This is a basic reality of human communities. To live well with this reality, it is critical that we learn to accept that not everyone shares our passion—that we can invite others to join us, but we can’t force them; and that we are a stronger spiritual community when there is room for many passions: social justice, music, children, elders, learning, multigenerational community, visual arts, cooking, service, worship, leadership, finance, theology, administration, sustainable living, green energy, event planning, fundraising, caring, gardening, visiting, knitting. The more room for passionate devotion, the stronger we are.

knockingA further caution: religious devotion can become overbearing and downright dangerous. In more mild Crusadesterms I’m referring to door-to-door evangelists, to proselytizers who seem unable to respect the existence of other faiths. We often experience them as spiritually tone-deaf, as pious and pushy, though I admire the courage of those who knock on endless doors only to be met with a polite no thank you at best, and derision at worst. In more extreme terms we know some who are deeply devoted are easily manipulated. When given a reason to fear some enemy, some infidel, some non-believer, some other, the devoted can be convinced to commit acts of violence or terrorism. So many perpetrators of religious violence believe they are acting out of devotion to God, believe they fulfilling God’s will for them. Devotion can and does go horribly wrong. If we bristle at the word, it is understandable.

Rev. Davidson Loehr

Rev. Davidson Loehr

A final caution: not all passions are worth pursuing. But how do we know? Here’s a quote from the Rev. Davidson Loehr, a liberal minister who served Unitarian Universalist congregations. In his 2005 book, America Fascism + God, he names the power of gods in our lives, though he’s using god in psychological rather than a traditional religious sense. He says, “I am a theologian, and I … know something about gods. I know how they work, how powerful they are, how invisible they usually are, and I know that beneath nearly every human endeavor with any passion or commitment about it there will be a god operating, doing the things gods do. Gods are those central concerns that our behaviors show we take very seriously. We commit our lives to them, we are driven by them, and in return they promise us something we want, or think we want. Whether what they promise us is good or bad is a measure of whether the god involved is an adequate or an inadequate one.”[6] He’s talking here specifically about the way American society treats capitalism as a god, though a highly inadequate one, since recent economic trends have led to such enormous inequality and poverty. He contends this worship of the inadequate god of capitalism has come at the expense of a much more adequate god, democracy.[7]

I won’t follow this particular thread any further, but I think this concept is important. The sign of an inadequate god is that our devotion to it results either in some kind of harm, or in nothing useful at all. The sign of an adequate god is that our devotion to it results in some tangible good. I was thinking that a good way to discuss devotion with children would be to ask them how they spend their free time. If they’re being honest—as opposed to thinking, he’s the minister, I better say what I think he wants me to say—they might talk about watching television or playing video games. At least my kids would. And we could then have a conversation about whether choosing to spend their time this way results in any good for themselves or for society. Hopefully it would get them thinking about more productive ways to devote themselves. Of course, some kids will talk about sports, nature, art, pets, school or helping their parents. If asked, they can name how devoting their time in this way results in a good for themselves or others. The deeper learning in such a conversation is that how we spend our time is a sign of what is truly important to us, regardless of what we say is important to us. As Rev. Loehr and others would put it, it’s a sign of the god we actually worship.

This can be dicey with adults, especially if we’re prone to feeling guilty. If we answer the question honestly, we may find that we devote quite a bit of time to things that make no difference, things that produce no good for ourselves or society. We may find that despite what we say we’re passionate about, our actions indicate we’re devoted to some other god. Do we watch too much television? Do we spend too much time on our electronic devices? These are fairly innocuous gods. They hurt no one. And often we say “this is how I unwind.” And that’s legitimate, though if our unwinding consistently prevents us from devoting ourselves to our passions, we may have to confront the possibility we are not fully living our lives. And what of devotion to more destructive gods? Alcohol comes to my mind most immediately as an adult child of an alcoholic. An unbalanced devotion to any substance—drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food—can lead to harm of oneself and others. An unbalanced devotion to money can lead to harm. An unbalanced devotion to power can lead to harm. And there are even more insidious gods. Human beings can devote themselves to nourishing their hatreds and fears, their sense of victimhood when no actual victimization is taking place, their sense of racial and cultural superiority. Such devotions, if unchecked, lead quite easily to violence, oppression and warfare. Devotion can and does go horribly wrong.

Last Ridge

So we approach with caution. But I say, let us err not on the side of caution, but on the side of devotion. If Rev. Loehr is correct—and I believe he is—whether we know it or not, we’re always choosing to worship one god or another. So let us devote ourselves to those gods that bring good to the world: beauty, creativity, peace, justice, community, democracy, love. And not just for a moment, but for our lifetimes, like the pie maker, patiently learning “how to get past wanting to quit,” and finally arriving at “the place in our minds beyond the last ridge.”[8]

May each of us find in our lives sufficient if not expansive room for consecration—room to devote ourselves to what matters most; and through our devotion, which is always a giving away of some part of ourselves, may we live fully, may we find wholeness, may we bless the world. Amen, blessed be.

 

[1] Max, Lin, “Piemaker,” “Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature By Women,” Summer 1992, Volume 14, #1, p. 34.

[2] For the story about the murder of Shamari Jenkins, see: http://articles.courant.com/2013-06-07/community/hc-hartford-bryan-murder-arraignment-0608-2-20130607_1_girlfriend-killed-magnolia-street-police.

[3] Read at December 17th, 2011 Hartford Courant article on Rev. Henry Brown at http://articles.courant.com/2011-12-17/community/hc-hartford-henry-brown-1218-20111217_1_gun-violence-brown-prayer-vigils.

[4] Thurman, Howard, “In the Quietness of This Place,” Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: Beacon Press and the UUA, 1993) #498.

[5] My research confirms this quote is from Howard Thurman, though it is not clear where he wrote it or when he said it.

[6] Loehr, Davidson, America Fascism + God (White River Junction, CT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2005) p. 46.

[7] Ibid, p. 52.

[8] Max, Lin, “Piemaker,” “Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature By Women,” Summer 1992, Volume 14, #1, p. 34.

This Sentence is False

Rev. Josh Mason Pawelek

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense,” said the science fiction writer Frank Herbert.[1] This is likely not an earth-shattering revelation to any of you. Herbert is not alone in making this observation. A close look at the history of both science and religion reveals at their cores a common, profound human longing to make sense of life, of the world, of the universe, of all existence. I detect this longing at the heart of those words we said earlier from Nicaraguan priest Ernesto Cardinal—his proclamation of a harmonious universe, a unity behind apparent multiplicity.[2]  I detect this longing at the heart of our fourth Unitarian Universalist principle, the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I detect this longing at the heart of Religious Humanism which has been a central identity for so many Unitarians and Universalists over the past century. For me, this longing—this pervasive need, as Herbert calls it—is at the heart of what makes us human.

Scientists John Casti and Werner DePauli, in their biography of the twentieth century European logician, Kurt Gödel, write, “Humans have always hungered for a certain knowledge, the kind that transcends millennia.”[3] They, too, are referring to the human longing for a logical universe that makes sense. Gödel’s incompleteness theorem says something about this. But before I offer some muddled Sunday morning musings about this, I want to remind you whose idea it was that I preach on Gödel. For the eighth year in a row, Fred Sawyer purchased a sermon at last year’s goods and services auction. He asked me to preach on the significance of Gödel’s theorem for us. This theorem goes far beyond anything Fred has suggested before in terms of complexity. I certainly appreciate and enjoy the challenge, but I confess the math is utterly beyond me. (I take some comfort knowing it’s beyond most mathematicians.) Hopefully I will convey it well. And as always, I will be offering more sermons at this year’s goods and services auction, Saturday evening, Febraury 11th. Tickets on sale now. Please come, please bid!

Kurt Gödel (1925)

What is the path to the knowledge that would enable us to make logical sense of the universe? And how can we be sure such knowledge is true? Casti and DePauli write, “we most assuredly can’t find that kind of knowledge in the natural sciences where theories even as fundamental as Newton’s laws of mechanics can be overthrown by relativity theory, which itself may be cast in doubt by observations yet to come. Thus it is always to mathematics, especially the realm of pure numbers that we turn for the kind of certainty that we can really count on, if you’ll pardon the poor pun. In this domain, the truth-generating mechanism we employ is the process of logical deduction bequeathed to us by Aristotle.”[4]

Aristotelian logic begins with a set of assumptions or axioms we take to be true without proof. From those axioms we infer certain rules; with those rules we deduce further truths. For example, axiom: all German Shepherds are dogs. Axiom: fluffy is a German Shepherd. Rule: If all German Shepherds are dogs, and if Fluffy is a German Shepherd, then Fluffy is also a dog. Sounds straightforward, but there’s a problem. (I love it when there’s a problem.) When one digs down deep into the rules of any mathematical system (arithmetic, geometry, calculus, set theory) one is likely to find contradictions—paradoxes—which suggest that maybe the axioms we first accepted as true aren’t entirely true. Paradoxes defy the system’s rules. They are statements that are both true and false. Somehow, Fluffy is both a dog and not a dog. It shouldn’t be possible. A flaw lurks somewhere in the foundation of our knowledge. Such paradoxes are the mathematical equivalents of the statement, “this sentence is false,” which is known as the Epimenides or Liar’s Paradox. Let your mind ponder this for a few moments. This sentence is false.

If it’s false, then it’s actually true … which means by its own definition it’s false … but wait! Isn’t that what it says? This sentence is false? So it’s true … which means it’s false. And so on. It’s a paradox. It can’t be resolved using the system’s rules. Another example is the Barber Paradox. The village barber shaves all those who do not shave themselves. If that’s true, then who shaves the barber? If the barber shaves himself, then he doesn’t shave himself, because he shaves all those who do not shave themselves. But if he doesn’t shave himself, then he shaves himself, because he shaves all those who do not shave themselves.[5] It cannot be resolved using the system’s rules.

A (hopefully) fun mathematical example comes from the twentieth century British logician and philosopher, Bertrand Russell: “The set of all sets that are not members of themselves.” Consider this question: Is the set of all sets that are not members of themselves a member of itself? The philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein writes, “if the set of all sets that aren’t members of themselves is a member of itself, then it’s not a member of itself, since it contains only sets that aren’t members of themselves. And, if it’s not a member of itself, then it is a member of itself, since it contains all the sets that aren’t members of themselves. So it’s a member of itself if and only if it’s not a member of itself.” To which she reacts with two sharp words: “Not good.” Why not good? “Paradoxes,” she says, “have often been found lurking about in the deepest places of thought. Their presence is often a signal (like the canary dying?) that we have managed, sometimes unwittingly, to stumble on a deep and problematic place, a fissure in the foundations.”[6] Why not good? Because they don’t make sense, and we humans long for a logical universe that makes sense.

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries mathematicians and philosophers tried to create mathematical systems completely free from paradox. The holy grail of such efforts was known as a formal system. I won’t get into the details of formal systems, because I’m not sure I can explain them and keep you awake at the same time. Suffice it to say, those seeking this holy grail believed paradoxes existed in mathematical systems because the numbers and words that made up those systems had certain intrinsic meanings. Paradoxes, they argued, arose from those meanings. If you could drain all meaning from the system you could get rid of paradoxes. Formal systems attempt to do just that. To each of the meaningful numbers, words, axioms and theorems in, say arithmetic, they assign a meaningless symbol. Get rid of meaning, get rid of paradox.[7]

Related to this, remember in logical deduction we start out with axioms we accept as true without proof.  If we can’t prove them, then we must admit we’ve arrived at them by some other means: intuition. They are intuitively true. Yet, Goldstein reminds us, intuitions “are a tricky business…. An intuition is supposed to be something that we just know, in and of itself, not on the basis of knowing something else…. But not all … intuitions are genuine… and how is one to tell when one is in possession of the genuine article? Murky motivations … not only abound but also tend to hide themselves…. You might think that in mathematics … murky motives for beliefs are at a minimum. Still, even in mathematics we can get suckered. Accidental features can insinuate themselves into our most pristine mathematical reasoning, presenting us with propositions that seem intuitively obvious when they are not obvious at all—maybe not even true at all.”[8] Intuitions, said the formalists, also lead to paradox. So, a formal mathematical system—which drains all the meaning out of the numbers and words—also, in theory, removes intuition. Without intuition, without meaning, presumably those pesky paradoxes disappear. A formal system would finally give us that logical universe that makes sense, that knowledge transcending millennia, that hidden r half of Lir’s plan for creation,[9] that unity behind apparent multiplicity.

The faith that such a formal system could be established was widespread in early twentieth-century Europe. It seemed as if a logical, sensible universe was within reach. On September 30, 1930, at a symposium in Konigsberg, Germany Kurt Gödel—at 25 years old—announced his incompleteness theorem. From what I’ve read, nobody was paying attention. It was the last day of the symposium; people were tired and ready to leave. Eventually his theorem was published, became widely accepted, and effectively ended the search for math’s holy grail.

Gödel’s theorem says this: “For every consistent formalization of arithmetic, there exist arithmetic truths that are not provable within that formal system.”[10] Casti and DePauli write, “What Gödel discovered is that even though there exist true relationships among pure numbers, the methods of deductive logic are just too weak for us to be able to prove all such facts. In other words, truth is simply bigger than proof.”[11] In every system there are certain truths—we can intuit them—but we cannot prove they are true using the system’s rules. Therefore our mathematical systems are inherently incomplete. Our knowledge—in terms of what we can prove—will forever be incomplete. The mathematical holy grail does not exist. “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense,” writes Frank Herbert, “but,” he continues, “the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”[12]

What Gödel did is fascinating, innovative, thrilling, a testament to his genius, and even funny. When the theorem was first published

Gödel and Einstein were close friends at Princeton

many called it a trick. They called him a conjurer, a magician. But today the incompleteness theorem is regarded as the most important discovery in mathematics since Aristotle. Gödel presented a formal system modeled, I believe, after the system—known as a type system—established by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead in their three volume work Principia Mathematica. He re-coded that system by assigning a special number to each meaningless symbol in the formal system. That’s the part I don’t understand. These are astronomically huge numbers which came to be known as Gödel numbers. Using these numbers he then created a statement similar to “This sentence is false.” He created “This sentence is not provable.” And then he proved it. Hear this: He proved the sentence is not provable. There’s no paradox here. We don’t get caught up in an endless stream of provable, not provable, provable, not provable. He proved it’s not provable. The formal system worked. No paradox. But watch: he proved the sentence is not provable, which means it’s true. Within this system there is a statement that is unprovable, but also true. There are truths we cannot prove. It turns out in any mathematical system (as long as it is consistent) there are unprovable truths. All mathematical systems are incomplete. There are truths that reside beyond proof.

What significance might this hold for us? Part of me that wants to throw up my hands and scream, “I have no idea!” Another part of me needs to remind us Gödel’s theorem is not religion; it’s not theology, spirituality or ethics. It’s cold, hard math and any attempt to draw a spiritual conclusion from it is risky. Gödel once wrote to his mother that “sooner or later my proof will be made useful for religion, since that is doubtless also justified in a certain sense.”[13] While I can find no indication of what he meant by that, he did at one point attempt to prove the existence of God and the afterlife. (I’m not impressed with his theology, which is quite distinct from the incompleteness theorem.) I also wouldn’t be surprised if some more traditional religious thinkers might be tempted to find proof for God in the incompleteness theorem. That thing we can’t prove but we know is true beyond the limits of our mathematical systems, beyond the limits of human knowing? It might look like God to some. But I don’t think the numbers are saying that.

What I take from my brief study of Gödel is this: First, if our mathematical systems and all systems derived from them are incomplete, then we ought to be skeptical of any religious, ideological, political or social claim to completeness. Human motives are often murky. In response to any world-view we ought to remain open to the possibility of truths residing beyond its claims. We ought to accept and embrace the mystery at the edges and perhaps at the heart of any world-view. We ought to align ourselves with the old liberal religious axiom, “revelation is not sealed.” As we sang, “Creative love, our thanks we give that this our world is incomplete.”[14]

Second, Gödel’s theorem does not signal the end of reason and logic. Rather, it was a triumph of reason and logic. It was a triumph of the human mind and a testament to the value and necessity of reason and logic in all areas of our lives including our spiritual lives.

Finally, the incompleteness theorem also confirms that reason and logic, while essential, are not the only path to truth. There are truths they cannot prove. How do we access these truths? It seems to me we do so through intuition, through poetry, art, dance, exertion, prayer, meditation, silence. We access unprovable truths not only through the mind, but through the body, the heart, the spirit. All these ways of searching for truth are necessary if we are to come to the knowledge we long for, if we are to meet that pervasive need. We’ll never fully know a logical universe, but if we learn to trust our intuitions and search for truth in all these ways, maybe—just maybe—we’ll come to know a universe that makes sense nevertheless. Perhaps that is the ultimate paradox, a universe that makes sense, yet its deepest truths lie beyond reason and logic.

Amen and blessed be.



[1] Herbert, Frank, Dune (New York: Berkley Books, 1965) p. 373.

[2]Cardinal, Ernesto, “The Music of the Spheres,” Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: Beacon Press and the UUA, 1993) #532.

[3]Casti, John L. and DePauli, Werner, Gödel: A Life of Logic (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2000) p. 3.

[4]Casti and DePauli, Gödel, pp. 3-4.

[5]Casti and DePauli, Gödel, p. 24.

[6]Goldstein, Rebecca, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005) p. 91.

[7] Math meets philosophy here. What makes a symbol meaningful? What makes a symbol meaningless? I’m not sure.

[8] Goldstein, Incompleteness, pp. 122-123.

[9] This is a reference to the Composer Henry Cowell’s  “Voice of Lir.” Lir of the half tongue was the father of the gods, and of the universe.  When he gave the orders for creation, the gods who executed his commands understood but half of what he said, owing to his having only half a tongue; with the result that for everything that has been created there is an unexpressed and concealed counterpart, which is the other half of Lir’s plan of creation. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlJRf6jmbMc

[10]Casti and DePauli, Gödel, p. 50.

[11]Casti and DePauli, Gödel, pp. 4-5.

[12] Herbert, Dune, p. 373.

[13]Goldstein, Incompleteness, p. 192.

[14] Hyde, William DeWitt, “Creative Love, Our Thanks We Give,” Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: Beacon Press and the UUA, 1993) #289.