I am now officially a Unitarian Universalist.

For two years, I’ve been attending a local UU church and playing in their orchestra. It’s been very rewarding. I maintained the whole time that I didn’t want to join the church. I didn’t want to add “I am a         ” to my identity; I didn’t want to be a member of something; I wanted to be as independent of religious establishments as possible. (I don’t really count UU as a religion, for a variety of reasons… but that’s a post for another day.)

This past Sunday was a service on creativity. Our orchestra and choir, combined with a guest choir and friends of the orchestra, performed Fauré’s Requiem. The church’s music director did all the speaking parts of the service. It was amazing. This service, however, is not why I joined. Why, then? Keep reading.

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Intentional Public Failure

(I wrote this post at the beginning of January and somehow never hit publish until now. Whoops!)

This past Sunday I went to a meetup of musicians who get together twice a month and sight-read classical music together. They meet in a café–where there are already people–and play music they’ve never seen before. Once I got there I realized that literally everyone else there had gone to college for music, and many of them made their livings as musicians. I was way out of my league. So, stepping outside my comfort zone, I picked a duet, and I and another clarinetist played it. We had to stop I think 5 times, and there was a brief passage we just had to skip because I couldn’t play it.

When we were done, everyone there clapped, quite sincerely. I didn’t look or really listen; I did not want to let the applause “in”. I did not want to own it, because I’d failed to perform the way I want to be seen performing. “How well,” I asked myself, “would you have to have played it before you’d let the applause in?” I started naming conditions, and interrupted–“And do you get that if you were so good that you could come in here and sight-read all this music perfectly, that the applause would be meaningless?”

Where the F*@& did this thought come from?!

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You can’t blah blah blah

“Stop telling people that no one will love them until they love themselves; stop planting the idea in people’s brain that they are unworthy of love because of their own struggle.”
Jack Barakat

Yeah, it’s been over a year since a public blog post. I’ve written other stuff but I will probably never share it. Very personal, some very ugly. My posting might get more regular. Probably. There’s been one really big impediment to blogging publicly, which is now being resolved. So there’s that.

I often hear that “you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” But I can take loving actions toward another while I’m not taking them for myself, and I can feel affinity for another person while I’m not feeling affinity for myself. In fact, I would say I know a lot of people–you probably do too–who are in that exact position. (In particular, people who love “The Church” (whichever church it happens to be) without loving themselves. I wonder how unique that pattern is to religion?) So I’m calling BS. I would certainly prefer to love myself and others, but one doesn’t depend on the other.

Pain, Fear, and Bravery

The first “Noble Truth” of Buddhism is that all life is suffering; anyone with an Associates Degree in Armchair Philosophy knows this. But (s)he also has enough grounding in Internet kitschy truisms to know that “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” And if you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 27 years, you’ve been told by the Dread Pirate Roberts that life is pain (your highness) and that anyone who says differently is selling something.

There’s no scientific or empirical way to evaluate any of these statements. They are non-falsifiable claims. In service of a high quality of life, is it useful to hold one or the other? Or somehow more than one? Is it even worth asking?

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