Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Roaming Over Fields and Shores

My first liberty was used in roaming over the neighboring fields and shores; and, amid this glorious nature, that love of liberty sprang up which has gained strength within me to this hour.  I early received impressions of the great and the beautiful, which I believe have had no small influence in determining my modes of thought and habits of life.

In this town I pursued for a time my studies of theology.  I had no professor or teacher to guide me; but I had two noble places of study.  One was yonder beautiful edifice, now so frequented and so useful as a public library, then so deserted that I spent day after day, and sometimes week after week, amidst its dusty volumes, without interruption from a single visitor.

The other place was yonder beach, the roar of which has so often mingled with the worship of this place, my daily resort, dear to me in the sunshine, still more attractive in the storm.  Seldom do I visit now without thinking of the work which there, in the sight of that beauty, in the sound of those waves, was carried on in my soul.

No spot on earth has helped to form me so much as that beach.  There I lifted up my voice in praise amidst the tempest.  There, softened by beauty, I poured out my thanksgiving and contrite confessions.  There, in reverential sympathy with the mighty power around me, I became conscious of power within.  These struggling thoughts and emotions broke forth, as if moved to utterance by nature’s eloquence of the winds and waves.  There began a happiness surpassing all worldly pleasure, all gifts of fortune – the happiness of communing with the works of God.

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842)

The beach Suðurströnd at Seltjarnarnes, Iceland.
(Photo by Stefan M. Jonasson)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Deeper and Larger Hope

There is no more important work in this world, no greater duty, than to help others to keep up their courage. He is our best friend whose words of cheerful confidence give more life to the heart; and he is our enemy who, by his words of doubt and his spirit of fear, saps this ardour, and takes from us our courage. To work without hope is discouraging. We need the sense of progress to cheer and sustain us. To go round and round on a treadmill of mere drudgery takes our spirit out of us. Therefore, we need a deeper and larger hope. We need to have faith in mental, moral, and spiritual progress, in the growth of the soul, in the unfolding of its higher powers, its larger faculties. We need to have faith that the years, as they come and go, may give us a deeper experience, may lift us to a larger vision, may enable us to come nearer to God in faith, nearer to man in human sympathy and love. When we have this sense of spiritual progress, we can bear outward disappointments more easily, sure that pain and sorrow will work for our highest good.

James Freeman Clarke (died June 8, 1888)

James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

And the Wonder Grew

Say if you will that you are a machine, very well you are a machine — a machine that thinks, a machine that plans, a machine that loves, a machine that is not satisfied with itself but goes on inventing all sorts of things and creating all sorts of things.  That thinking, loving, hoping machine is just as wonderful as if you called it a soul.  I do not see that it makes any difference at all what you call it.

A person may say, I believe in God.  Another person may say, I do not believe in God.  That does not make any difference to me as I look out upon the world.  I am not wondering at your definition; I am simply facing a reality which I cannot easily pass by, and after all your denials it is just where it was before, made all the more wonderful by the questionings which have come ...

That is the way religious people in all ages, just because they were religious, have felt, not about what they were told, but about what they experienced in their own lives, in the things they saw, in their sorrows, in their distresses, in their hopes.  They saw something that made them wonder; and the wonder grew ...

Samuel McChord Crothers (born June 7, 1857)

Samuel McChord Crothers (1857-1927)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Rights of Animal Creation

The day has been, I grieve to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing, as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still.  The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.  The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor.  It may one day come to be recognized that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate?  What else is it that should trace the insuperable line?  Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse?  But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old.  But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? the question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

Jeremy Bentham (died June 6, 1832)

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Deep-Sea Unitarians

We claim kinship, mental as well as physical, with those unafraid mariners of the North, who, in the early Middle Ages ceased to hug the shallow shoreline, launched out upon the main, sailed the uncharted sea by the sun, and when that failed them by the never-setting stars, and found “Vinland the Good.” We are deep-sea Unitarians. As such, we are not overly concerned about the eddies and cross-currents to the right or to the left of us on the surface of the mighty stream of liberal thought. But let there be no misapprehension as to our essential position. We cherish no undue reverence for the mythologies of old, whether Norse, Greek, Hebrew or Christian. We accept them, not as special revelations of ultimate truth, but rather as the disclosures of the best that the men of old could embody in words after pondering the problem of existence. And if their findings no longer serve to feed our souls, let us not give way to whining about the meagerness of our heritage, let us like resolute and resourceful men and women dive deeper, soar higher, and formulate the findings of our explorations in the world of space, time, and mind into nobler and more soul-satisfying concepts to sustain the loftier race that is to be.

Amandus H. Norman (born June 5, 1865)

Nora Unitarian Universalist Church
Hanska, Minnesota
(Photo by Jatakuck)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Spirit Breathing

If ever, at some moment of solitary musing, we have felt within ourselves a stronger conviction of moral and spiritual truth, a stronger determination to good; if ever we have seized with truer insight the meaning and purpose of our being, and have formed the resolution to live for duty and for God, — it was the Spirit breathing on the latent spark of spiritual life in the breast, which gave us that vision, and caused those fires to glow. And, if we analyze our experience at such seasons, we shall see how man's free agency may consist with divine impulsion. We shall see that, while the determination of the mind to moral ends is a free determination, calling into action the whole force of our own will, it is still a divine impulse that moves us, and a God that works in us to will as well as to do.

Frederic Henry Hedge (1805-1890)

Frederic Henry Hedge (1805-1890)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

God's Spark Glimmers

My conviction is that my life has meaning and purpose if I live in God and for God. ... Anytime I want something only for myself, and anytime I hesitate to forgive, tolerate, suffer for truth, or sacrifice for goodness — it is me in separation from God. But anytime I want only truth and goodness and enjoy goodness and truth wherever it appears, and anytime I roll up my sleeves to start work that will serve the human whole and the world to progress so that everybody will live and breath in a better way — it is God in me, who is in all other people in the same way. Then God’s spark glimmers in me which is connected with all others in the whole universe as the source and substance and manifestation of the eternal fire, the fire of God.

Norbert Čapek (born June 3, 1870)

Norbert Čapek (1870-1942)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cast Thy Bread Upon the Waters

Cast thy bread upon the waters,
Thinking not ’tis thrown away;
God Himself saith, thou shalt gather
It again some future day.

Cast thy bread upon the waters;
Wildly though the billows roll,
They but aid thee as thou toilest
Truth to spread from pole to pole.

As the seed, by billows floated,
To some distant island lone,
So to human souls benighted,
That thou flingest may be borne.

Cast thy bread upon the waters,
Why wilt thou still doubting stand?
Bounteous shall God send the harvest
If thou sowest with liberal hand.

 Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford (died June 2, 1921)

Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford (1829-1921)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Sweet June Days

The sweet June days are come again,
With sun and clouds between,
And, fed alike by sun and rain,
The trees grow broad and green:
Spreads broad and green the leafy tent,
Upon whose grassy floor
Our feet, too long in cities pent,
Their freedom find once more.

The sweet June days are come again;
Once more the glad earth yields
Its golden wealth of ripening grain,
And breath of clover fields,
And deepening shade of summer woods,
And glow of summer air,
And winging thoughts, and happy moods
Of love and joy and prayer.

The sweet June days are come again,
The birds are on the wing,
God’s praises, in their loving strain,
Unconsciously they sing.
We know who giveth all our good,
And ’neath the arches dim,
And ancient pillars of the wood,
We lift our grateful hymn.

Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892)

Homoród Valley, Transylvania (2013)