This is a transcript of a public talk given 2018-03-25

I’d like to begin by admitting that I have a fear of public speaking.  So right now there is this little voice in the back of my mind telling me that I’m going to be horrible at this and that I’m going to humiliate myself up here today and I’ll be so bad that I’ll just never be able to come back to this church ever again.  And of course that fear is ridiculous, certainly not because I’m a great public speaker or anything, but because I know you guys. I know that even if I’m not any good at this, you’re not going to ridicule me or make fun of me. I know that you’ll have empathy for me. I know that you’ll be here for me, you’ll comfort me and you’ll reassure me.  Rationally I know this because I know you guys, and yet this fear I’m feeling remains.

So what can we do about this kind of irrational fear in our lives? How can we help each other begin to live our lives with less fear.  For me, I believe that fear remains until we stop hiding from it, until we acknowledge it, until we decide to turn and face into it and walk right through the middle of it.  But the problem is, that’s not an easy thing to do, especially when we try to do it alone, and by ourselves. Personally, I’m not that brave. I don’t want to face my fear alone whenever I don’t absolutely have to.  And luckily today I don’t have to because you are here with me and with your help I’m not alone. I feel very humble and grateful in this experience and I’d like to talk about that and the role that humility plays in the ways that we help each other.

First I would like to read something about feeling alone in the world.  It’s about wanting to make some kind of peace with that experience, to find some purpose in it yet at the same time wanting to learn how to step out of it, move beyond it and genuinely connect with others, and maybe in that connection find the courage to face our fears together.  It’s called Sacred Fire;

Read  Sacred Fire

I would like to propose that there is healing power for all of us when we embrace the opportunity to share our loneliness, our fears, our failures and our grief with each other.  But this can be so difficult because as a society we do tend to treat these things like they are shameful in some way. We are a society that puts tremendous value on rugged independence, self-sufficiency, and the kind of bold, loner, fearlessness that our ancestors used to tame the wild west of our history.  We are taught to keep our doubts, our fears and our pain private, and that to do otherwise is to show some kind of weakness. So… much of the time we may be afraid to share these things.

On the surface it might seem that being raised in such a society would create people who are tough and can withstand any hardship.  But even if it does do that… maybe we should ask “at what price?” Doesn’t it also greatly damage our ability to share our humanity with each other, because what is more human than fear, failure and grief?  When do we need people more than when we are afraid or when we have failed at something or when we have been hurt? And yet we learn to hide, to deny and to internalize all of these things in order to not appear weak.  We learn to suffer these things alone and that is very tragic.

Because recent studies have shown that the word alone is used in the social media posts of people with depression more frequently than any other word when they describe themselves and their experiences.  While we used to view social isolation as a side effect of depression, newer research is starting to assert that it may also be one of the major contributing causes of depression as well. The number of people who report being alone and feeling lonely in our society is increasing and so is depression.  

Unfortunately in our society we tend to stigmatize it and consequently tend not to talk about it especially when it happens to us.  Society teaches us that it is the social norm, maybe even our own moral obligation to always be that strong, and independent person.  We are made to feel as though nobody wants to hear our problems. We are taught to keep that messiness of our own most painful yet poignant human experiences neatly hidden away from public view.  This is one of the most limiting and even destructive things we can do to ourselves. I believe that I can speak for all of us here today when I say that when you feel alone, afraid, hurt, or humiliated in some way, it matters to the rest of us here, it’s important and it’s not something you need to hide or pretend like it isn’t there.  If you’re hurting, we will hurt with you, if you are grieving, we will grieve with you. Please do not suffer these things alone.

And maybe this is where we might find humility.  Maybe we find it when we see someone who is alone in their suffering, whatever it is, and we feel the desire to help them.  Because they don’t need us to be perfect. They don’t need us to be successful or important or powerful. What they need is for us to just show up and sit with them.  They need us to listen and to just be there with them as openly, honestly and as authentically as we can be. We only have to show up with our love for them, our humility and our willingness to be of service in helping them.  Maybe that is the moment when we finally find the humility to admit to our own failures and fears and admit that some of the time maybe we don’t feel perfect. Maybe we even feel so grievously damaged by the events of our lives that we think that we are irrevocably broken in some ways.  Maybe we have each of us failed at so many things in utterly spectacular fashion that we couldn’t even begin to count them all. I know I have. And I’ll gladly stand up here today and flat out admit that I know that I’m broken in some ways. I am. And I grieve the things that I’ve lost, the things I’ve let pass me by and most especially I grieve the harm that I’ve recklessly caused in the world and that I am personally responsible for.  But ultimately, we can also be broken open by these experiences in a way that helps us feel compassion for those who are going through the same kind of experiences. When we see someone who is alone in their suffering, we can be absolutely nothing and nobody in the world and it doesn’t matter to them.

In that moment when they need us, in that moment together with them, we can help them and help ourselves experience the most powerful, beautiful and Sacred experience this life has to offer;  It is the experience of genuine, honest, vulnerable connection with someone else. That moment… asks that we accept the gift of the humility that we might feel in the presence of such an opportunity and responsibility.  It is the visitation of grace and providence in our lives. It is the gift of humility that can make us feel so utterly small yet somehow incomprehensibly vast and alive in the communion of our connection with each other.

This is the gift that you have given to me by being with me and helping me.  You didn’t ask me to do anything to earn it or deserve it. I simply arrived and you gave me your compassion and your empathy and in so doing taught me that I am not alone.  You are the visitation of grace and providence in my life and because of this, because of you, I feel a deep sense of humility and gratitude.

Copyright: My writing and photography is my gift to you.  You are free to copy and share them under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.  

Sacred Fire


Perhaps you feel unloved
but if you wait patiently
every day with your routine
putting your shoes on every morning
one day after another
marching out into the world
left, right, left,
day, after, day…
you will soon forget that you are waiting
Until one day
many years from now
the rhythm of your safety skips a beat
and there, then suddenly
you are…
How did it happen?
How did you forget?
It’s the surprise of it that gets you
Let me tell you
It’s going to hurt
and you better let it
There’s no way around it
only through it if you hope to proceed
A journey survived in youth
proves perilous with age
so you best go now
You have to step into
that unknowable darkness.
In time we spin
these eternal threads
until finally there is peace and understanding
in the sudden realization
of our presence in absolute solitude
with this slumbering Divinity
who is genuinely alone
in the most absolute sense
floating beyond the vast expanse of formless space
before time
before creation
Floating there, dreaming of and longing for
our arrival,
alone in a way we can only begin to know
Whether you consider this Divinity to be
the all-knowing, Loving mind of God
or if instead you see
the emergent, self-aware soul of life itself,
or if you consider this Divinity
To be simply a creation of your own psyche,
a manifestation of your own longing
It nevertheless still sings
the true song of the soul
in its transcendent nature,
the song of Love for all life
Whatever you consider it to be
in this I hope we can agree
that we are all,
in part,
of this Divinity
Then Divinity blinks
and you glimpse the real pain
as it bursts forth in a brilliant shockwave
of light and heat spreading out across the cosmos
leaving in its wake such indescribable longing
for the weaving of creation,
our creation
And you think…
Thank God
that I can still suffer like this
once again
and long so much
to be part of this fabric
of unfathomable complexity, beauty,
and suffering
Reach out
from a place beyond fear
a place beyond time
a place where the Love of humanity and all life
is the illumination cast
by this Sacred Fire we carry
born beyond the beginning of the universe
Realize that now is the time to connect
to fight the isolation of our amnesia
born from our fear and imagined impotence
fueled by the demons of our own scrutiny,
Now is the time to fight against the loneliness, we feel in this world
that we believe is somehow wrong and unique to ourselves
forgetting its divine source

Instead let us realize our loneliness
as the Sacred longing of creation
that drives us to take action
to connect with the company of others
to care for the plight of all souls
Don’t let your loneliness maim you
let it liberate you
don’t ignore it, embrace it
quite defending yourself against it
quite trying to bury it
under your entertainment
and your technology
and a thousand other distractions
let it hurt you
the way that it is meant to
the way that it should
in its divine function
Then when it hurts enough
begin your search
Begin to finally proclaim to the world
all that you believe
all that you are
Proclaim it now
that part of yourself
you truly long to find in others

My proclamation to the world is this;
“I am making my stand!
Will you stand with me
by my side if you have this same
bittersweet gratitude for creation?
Will you also proclaim
these things we stand for;

We stand for Love
in this Sacred Divinity of Experience
We stand for Peace
by our Love made manifest
We stand for Life
because it is our choice
it is our will
and our Love will prevail

Can you say these things?
Can you believe these things?
These are the people I long for,
the people who will stand with me
in these things.

After you have had you own such thoughts
and spoken them aloud
I hope you find how false it was
to have ever thought that you were unloved
The words offered here
and the words and actions
of countless others throughout time
are a testament to you
that you are loved
by all of us who have come before
and all of us who are awaiting your arrival
even now
at this moment
Make your presence known
that we may find you,
but you must speak loudly
and bravely
In your longing for that connection
Make your stand
Do it now!
Speak out!
Because the words offered here
can’t save you
Only your own words,
only your own actions
can do that
when you dare offer them to the world
and discover Divinity’s seed
still sleeping dormant in the souls
of those around you
who feel alone and unloved.

Copyright: My writing and photography are my gift to you.  You are free to copy and share them under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.