God Speaks To Our Uncommon Sense

And Asks Us To Pay Attention

Messages of Faith

By The Rev. Daniel Budd

'Parish Minister Of The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland Since 1999.'

My faith has always drawn me into the world, not away from it.

Along with the poet Walt Whitman, "I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God's name."

I do not need supernatural miracles. The experience of being conscious in the midst of life on Earth is miracle enough for me. Indeed, everywhere I go, I stumble over God, bump into the mystery, stand in the midst of a marvelous wonder that is often more than my heart can bear.

I want to suggest to you that this is not common sense -- not very common at all. What passes for common sense these days approaches the world very superficially, seeing the many wonders of life as objects that either help or hinder one's needs and desires. Common sense does not tell us that God has dropped letters to us in the street. Common sense finds that just plain silly.

I prefer to live with uncommon sense. Uncommon sense does not assume that our senses are distrustful or evil, but uses them to gather information and experience, to take in the information and experiences lived by others, and then to make the ongoing discernments that create the living moments of our lives.

As such, uncommon sense does not exclude pain and suffering, or grief and sorrow, from the vast sphere of human living. Indeed, it takes them in as well, knowing that they are deep and human testaments to the wonder that is existence and to the reality that our connections -- with ourselves, with one another and with our world -- are deeper and more profound than we can allow ourselves to realize.

Both grief and love are feelings that well up from deep within, that pervade the mind and heart, our flesh and blood, our thought and being because they are the living connections we have to the life around us. It is uncommon sense to cry out your grief as much as it is to cry out your joy.

Common sense would say that we attend to such things to improve ourselves, and that we practice such disciplines as prayer, meditation and attentive awareness to become more spiritual, more aware, to become better people. Common sense would say that we pray or meditate to become enlightened, to give us a sense of peace.

But uncommon sense says that prayer, meditation and attentive awareness are not done for oneself. They are, rather, an act of service to life. They are ways in which we attune ourselves to life for its sake, not ours. Our senses, writes contemporary philosopher Peter Kingsley, "are the sacramental instruments that we've been given" in order to do this.

The sacramental instruments! Not the temptations that lead us down the slippery slope to sensuality, or somehow astray from the will of God, or which take us by the hand and deliver us directly to the devil. Our senses are sacramental instruments. They are natural. They are holy. God has given us our senses, and only asks that we give back our attention, that we respond with our grateful and curious awareness.

Uncommon sense invites us into the natural mysticism of life itself, into the wonder and the mystery in which we live and move and have our being; invites us to walk down the very street where God drops us letters and where we have the opportunity to offer our gratitude through our conscious attention.

"The soul is not more than the body," Whitman also wrote, "and the body is not more than the soul."

Living this unity enables us to pay attention to the uncommon sense that calls us, not away from this life in which we are immersed, but ever more deeply, reverently and compassionately into it.

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This page posted: July 27, 2009 // BMW