As we extinguish the flame of our Unitarian Universalist Chalice, I remind us that the flame in our hearts, the flame in our community and the flame of all our relations is never truly extinguished.
by Marlene J. Geary
Chair, Sunday Services Committee
Unitarian Universalist Society: East
Manchester, CT, USA
…I love you because I know no other way than this: where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that as I fall asleep, it is your eyes that close. – Pablo Neruda
At first glance, “relatedness” as a ministry theme seems just about as dry and parched as a Steinbeck farm. But ’tis not so. Scratch off the dusty bits and a living, pulsing vortex of questions lurks within.
Process theology says, among other things, that reality is a series of events occurring through nature and that every event has physical and metaphysical aspects. It is by experiencing these events that we come to understand the interrelated nature of ongoing reality.
Indeed, some would go so far as to say that reality does not exist without the physical, emotional and spiritual connections we have with other people, animals, plants and all of the other tangible and intangible parts of our day-to-day existence.
Regardless of what we believe about the nature of reality, how we relate to each other and what that relatedness means are fundamental questions that can be useful to think about, even if you prefer to stay away from esoterica.
Relatedness is important because it’s the idea that we grow when we relate to others.
Relatedness is important because it’s the idea that others have the opportunity for growth when we relate to them.
In short, it’s the idea that we’re all in it together, whether we choose to be or not.
Relatedness says that we experience challenges with each another and those challenges help us to move beyond our current state. It’s easier to have respect and dignity for all when we’re alone, harder when we have to respect and dignify others by looking them in the eyes. Put differently, are you really stealing a cookie from the cookie jar if nobody else is around to notice and point out the cookie theft?
To what extent is your life determined by your relatedness to others? When you think of the most joyous and most sad moments of your life, were those memories formed in the context of relatedness?
Do you make your easiest and most difficult moral and ethical decisions in the context of your relatedness to others?
Is your spiritual growth determined and guided by your relatedness to others and theirs to you?
Indeed, is your identity, the person you know yourself to be, the person you call yourself, the definitions and labels you apply to yourself, independent of others? Or have you formed those ideas in relatedness?
We spend quite a bit of time writing living covenants that cultivate our relatedness with deliberate intent. We are constantly figuring out how to navigate this nebulous place where our individual selves begin and end with others.
Pablo Neruda had relatedness figured out in love: where neither existed as “I” nor “you” but as a single being. A seamless existence between two people, so much so that as one falls asleep, the other closes their eyes. As you read this, consider with fresh eyes the relatedness between you and your lover. Consider the relatedness you have with your children, your best friends, your parents. Where do you end and they begin? Could the line move? Could the line fade away until there is no more “you” and “them” but we are all one?
Funny, this UU principle that talks about the interrelated web of all existence. I think the first step is to consider the relatedness we experience in our local sphere of existence. I invite you to examine your own “locaweb” of relatedness.
Relatedness takes a deep approach to considering the relation of humans to each other and everything else in our interdependent web. How we cultivate and consider those relations ties deeply into relatedness. This concept might cover the ideas of friends; acquaintances; soul mates; marriage partners; sibling, child/parent, co-worker, neighbor and faith community relationships. Relatedness also considers our connections to the wider world: our congregation; our ecosystem; our social, political and economic systems; our universal connection to all existence.