Three umpires are sitting in a bar, sharing a beer together. They begin talking about their job and the difficulties they face in calling balls and strikes.
The first umpire states quite confidently, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call them as they are!”
The second umpire, with a slight look of disapproval says, “No, no, no, there’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call them as I see’em.”
The third umpire says, “You know, you’re both wrong. There’s balls and there’s strikes, and they ain’t nothin’ tell I call’em.”
Many years ago I heard that a doctor had developed a natural approach to treating heart disease. He used meditation, diet, exercise, and social contact. The doctor, Dean Ornish, later also used this approach successfully for prostate cancer. I had long been convinced of the importance of the first three, but what was “social contact?” I didn’t know, but I decided if I ever had cancer or heart disease, I would try this approach. I later met John, the husband of a friend from High School who actually was a part of Dr. Ornish’s trial group for prostate cancer. John said this approach saved his life. I have long known of the importance of meditation. It been said that Engineers usually don’t become spiritual, but if they do, they can become zealots. Since I was an engineer, I try to remember this and not become a zealot. But I am close to it when it comes to meditation. John, on the other hand, really focused on diet. When they visited us, they brought and prepared their own meal. I look at it, tired a little, and thought, “I sure hope I don’t have to eat this way.” John and I shared our thoughts on the Ornish approach and we both came up short on social contact. I have now decided that “social contact” takes place in Community. So Community is very important.
I really consider speaking at our Church a blessing. That is because I like to develop a talk based on what is currently happening on my spiritual journey. When the date for a talk is approaching, I start searching for a topic. Usually I have no clue. This is accompanied by panic. Eventually I start to notice some seeming unrelated things and they begin to fit a pattern. That pattern becomes my topic.
Actually, this time the title “Community” came to me first, and I thought, what a boring topic! But now I realize that Community is much more important than I thought.
Here are two books I read recently: A Pilgrimage to Eternity (from Canterbury to Rome) by Timothy Egan. The Dead are Arising, the life of Malcolm X by Les Payne. Normally I would not choose to read these books, but my intuition said to. I now see how they support this talk.
Here are my four main Communities:
3. This Church
4. The Alohem Center for Transformational Studies
My first Community is Family. I am married, have three adult daughters, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Two daughters live in Poulsbo, one lives in Texas. In January, we moved my wife, Kay, into a care facility due to dementia. She is currently at Martha and Mary in Poulsbo. My daughters and their families are very supportive. Kay is content and happy. I visit Kay frequently. She is doing well, but her memory is slipping away. The social contact in my Family Community has been severely reduced.
My second Community is Neighborhood. I live alone in the middle of four acres in a rural neighborhood where it is nice and quiet, but I rarely interact with my neighbors. We wave when we pass in our cars. They have helped me when asked, and vice versa. I live just outside of Poulsbo and it seems like a supportive community. I have valued the North Kitsap Herald for community information but this newspaper has been greatly reduced in recent years. My social contact in my Neighborhood community is not very high and it has become reduced.
Malcolm Xs view was significantly shaped by how he and his family were treated. The treatment was horrible, and when it wasn’t, there was always an underlying fear of destruction and even death. From the PBS series on Finding Your Roots, I learned how African American last names were lost through slavery and likely changed to that of the slave owner. What I didn’t know was that using “X” as a last name is due †o this unknown… a reminder of the cruelty of slavery. It would be easy to diverge at this point. Instead I want to clearly state that this book convinced me of the power of the Neighborhood Community.
My third Community is this Church. Last Sunday, Dick Wolgamott gave one of the best talks I have ever heard. It really spoke to me. At the end I heard Dick say “With a little help from our friends.” I thought, “That’s it!” That is our Church Community! It is friends who, by being loving, open, and accepting make this Community special for me.
The book A Pilgrimage to Eternity, made me aware of the deadly side of Religion. Over centuries anyone who strayed in the slightest was subject to excommunication, even torture and death. Just raising a question could be deadly. And those of other Religions or even within the same Religion but somehow different were killed by the thousands and even millions. This book helped realize how grateful I am for my Church Community. When I write a talk, I don’t feel that I am bound by other’s beliefs. I know that I can explore and discover what I feel is truth for me. You support my speaking and are open to what I have to say. You can accept what fits and toss the rest away. Some insights have come to me when I realize that I don’t resonate with a talk. So I ask myself, “If that doesn’t feel right, if I don’t believe that, what do I believe?” Sometimes thoughts that didn’t resonate when I first heard them, later become valuable truths.
Timothy Egan, the author of A Pilgrimage to Eternity, lives in Seattle I enjoy his books. One reason is that he includes unusual and interesting information. I was born and raised in Seattle and have lived in this area all my life. Here is a quote from A Pilgrimage to Eternity that really caught my attention. It is something I never knew. “… people in Seattle seldom bring up the fact that the largest city in the world named for a Native American once passed a law making it illegal for a Native American to live there.”
My fourth Community is the Alohem Center for Transformational Studies. Carole Glenn’s mother started this group. It is at the center of my Spiritual Journey and my Spiritual Journey is the center of my Life. After her mother stepped aside, Carole has kept the group going. Classes were stopped during the Covid Pandemic, but Carole plans on starting them again soon. So if you are interested in finding out more, see Carole.
You probably share some of my Communities & have some of your own. Such as Work, Organizations, Exercise, Recreation, Hobbies, Dance, Art, and Music.
Music plays an important role in Community, especially singing. Here is a quote from an address by choir conductor Anton Armstrong: “Making music together is not just about the music. The real impact of coral singing in person is that we are doing this to delve into the souls of each singer. That is so we feel connected to one another and to build community.” So I tip my hat today to our choir who are helping us build community.
On the September 18, 2022 Kitsap Sun Opinion page was a column titled “Fight loneliness to help save democracy.” It caught my attention because it contained important information that I did not know. I was not surprised to find that loneliness is increasing. And that part of this increase is because of the Covid Pandemic. And I was not surprised to read that the adverse affects of loneliness are profound and that the benefits of feeling connected, seen and valued are vital. What I did not know is that loneliness can heighten suspicion. It warps people sense of reality, alienates them and fuels resentment. The lonely can become hyper vigilant. They start to be more likely to take offense when none was intended, and to be afraid of strangers. The negative effects of loneliness can compound because of our yearning to belong. Lonely people will still search for connection but heightened fear and distrust makes people more likely to find community and belonging in fractured groups.
So what helps us keep from feeling lonely? I believe that it is Communities. Communities with positive social contacts.
I had an experience not long ago that I felt was important, but I was not sure why. I have not taken the ferry for some time, and if I have, I have stayed in the car. I decided to visit an old friend in Bellingham a few months ago and took an early Kingston Ferry. I needed to head upstairs to use the restroom. I checked with my intuition about wearing a mask and to my surprise, the answer was yes. So I put on my mask and decided to see how many people were also wearing masks. After finishing my first priority, I walked around the main deck and observed the passengers. The ferry was quite full. Probably mainly with people headed for work. I only saw about five other people wearing masks. However, I noticed something I had not seen before. The vast majority of people were looking at their phone and scrolling. One person was talking to a laptop, apparently using it like a phone. Another one person was asleep, flat on their back still holding their phone on their stomach. It was a sunny day, the water was calm, and there were beautiful views of the mountains including Mt. Rainier. I don’t remember seeing anyone interacting with each other or looking out the window. It was so different from what I expected. I now think that this experience was important because it brought the impact of cell phones to my attention.
In the newspaper column, the impact of technology was left out as a possible effect on loneliness. Perhaps because technology has become so accepted.
As an Engineer, I learned that you never change something without some other change or changes happening. Sometimes other changes are not apparent and go unnoticed. Once a change becomes the norm, we don’t notice or consider the other changes.
The Pandemic has affected all four of my Communities. Meetings have been canceled, restaurants have closed, organizations and businesses have closed, our Church building was closed, etc. I have stopped going out very much. This has become my “norm.” Before the Pandemic, did you know about Zoom? Let alone consider it as a method of social contact? While it has allowed us to safely meet during the Pandemic, it is not the ideal way to connect. For example, we cannot circle up, hold each other’s hands and sing the Peace song. We miss individual social contact before and after the service.
As Pandemic controls end, we will have some important decisions to make. And in some cases, the decisions will have unnoticed consequences. In order to strengthen our Church Community I hope that you will be thoughtful in your choices. It is important.
In preparing this talk, I now realize that my social contact has been significantly reduced. It has been reduced in all four of my main Communities.
Like an umpire, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and they ain’t nothin’ tell I call’em.” Here is how I called one decision.
The didgeridoo meditations on Thursday night are only in person. I now realized that this decision came from my need for more social contact. In person is not easier for me or for the people that show up. However, as Heather, my middle daughter said, “If you always take the easy choice while climbing a Mountain, you will end up at the bottom.”
I am grateful that Dee and others made the choice to have the Harvest Potluck today. I know that it is not easy, but it really helps build Community. I have missed it and I need the positive social contact.
Meditation - The most important part of the service for a Mystic is the meditation. Today I will play a didgeridoo that I believe helps smooth things out and supports harmony.
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