A few weeks back we challenged the congregation to reflect on the question: ‘What do I want?’ How are you making out with this question? At this service we’ll hear some answers to this homework assignment. Join Rev. Sue Browning and other speakers for a morning of honesty around this question. This will be a shared Zoom Service with UUCR.
Sermon January 30, 2022
Rev. Sue Browning and members of the UUFE/UUCR congregations
Can we meet the world with clarity on what we want?
Just the question, ‘What do I want?’ can be met with resistance. The knee jerk reactions: My basic ‘needs’ are covered. It’s not ‘right’ that I should ‘want’ more. I can be content with the basics.
We worry acknowledging what we want might signal selfishness. We sense our needs are pretty much met. We note to ourself, “I have more than my share already. Others can get what they need first.” ‘Wanting’ or ‘wanting more’ is maybe just not polite? Doing so might make us look greedy. Our Puritan ancestors took pride in living with the basics – they valued depravity.
Yet, we have things we of want in life. Maybe it is a boat, or a trip. Maybe we want our kids to achieve. And maybe we want financial security for the future. We have sexual desire. We wish to be immersed in beauty. Humans have wants and desires.
We can get caught thinking there are needs at one end of a spectrum, and wants and desires at the other. That’s not the reality. It’s more nuanced and layered. There is a dimension of spirituality in asking, ‘What do I want?’ There is practical value in considering, ‘What do I want?’
Throughout the sermon today, we’ll hear from members respond to the question: “What do I want?” Some will share directly, and I’ll read some of what was submitted. We’ll start today with three members sharing what they submitted.
(For the text version of the sermon, individual names have been removed.)
DB – As I prepare to retire from my 40-year career and face the slide toward dissolution, I want to create things with my hands which are an expression of my nature. I want to refine my nature in these final years by building finer and more beautiful things than I have before now.
AD – I want to believe that humanity is moving in the right direction. For me, the “right direction” would be a period of time, a future, when all people have equal opportunities to flourish: all races, ethnicities, gender identifications, levels of income, ages, educational levels, mental capacity, and geographic locations can live in peace I want a global community in which resources of all kinds are shared, that is: natural resources, intellectual property, clean air, clean water, organically grown produce, and animals raised in free range environments. Universal healthcare, quality education, and housing in every nation are part of my wish/want list. I want all religious faiths and belief systems provide spiritual sustenance rather than a means for division and disrespect. This is my “pipe dream.” It feels like a paraphrase of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, one of my favorite songs. To achieve this dream world would mean changing human nature, all of our animal behaviors of self-protection/survival: grabbing what you can while you can, fearing the unknown and the “other”, the need to feel superior and in control. These characteristics have been ingrained in humans through thousands of years. I believe that with the right conditions (when people feel safe) they will have the opportunity to evolve to a more generous, peaceful existence. But, when challenged by existential threats and/or uncertainty humans tend to “devolve” to more animalistic behaviors. A world as I describe would promote human evolution.
I want my daughters to live lives that feel successful by their standards, lives that are satisfying and bring them a sense of contentment.
PD – Meaningfulness and to contribute to making life a little better for some others. And, to write one or two really good songs.
Earlier this month I suggested we reflect on three questions: Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve? The idea was inspired by a TED talk by Mallika Chopra.
The responses submitted also remind us that our wants are most often not satisfied from a fixed set of resources. It’s not a fixed pie where for my needs being satisfied, means someone else’s are not. It can be that way, but those are not the type of wants where were submitted. I can create something beautiful, and in no way limit your opportunity to do the same. In fact, we inspire one another to create beautiful things together.
And I’ll note that many responses to the ‘What do I want?’ homework included a sense of identity, context and personal circumstances. Our ‘wants’ don’t arise in a vacuum. Several responses included a recognition of age and stage in life.
JK – I recently turned 80 and my perspective on my life is changing, I feel a sense of urgency to hurry and decide what I really want to do for myself in the time I have left. Plans for the future more than ever concern those I will leave behind. Naturally, health is a major priority. However, I still don’t have clear ideas of what I want to do for myself. I wonder, would it be a good idea to get away on a small retreat by myself or can I do this at home without my habitual procrastination?
NS – I want to continue to be healthy enough to enjoy life, finding a balance between doing good in the world, spending time with family and friends and “just being.”
Several responses expressed wanting to approach life in a certain way.
One member responded, “I want to put more energy into the Serenity Prayer concepts to address some problem areas in my life. I need more courage to change some things, more serenity to accept some things and more wisdom to discern which is which.”
Another responded, “I want to find peace, balance and focus in my life in pursuit of justice and equity for all.”
The word balance jumped out jumped out for me in that last one.
In another response,
MR shares –
“I have struggled with this question since the assignment was given to us all by Rev. Sue. I wrote the question on my office white board and on several pieces of paper. I then placed question around my area to keep the ‘ask’ literally in front of me.
I don’t really want for much. There are gaps in relationships and old wounds that have healed with scars, but those things I see as a part of life. There are big picture problems that I would like to work with others in finding the solution and I do, to an extent. But the question remains:
What do I want? At this writing, after much thought, the concept of independence seems to resonate. It isn’t the independence that can isolate a person, although I must admit I do live in a remote place. And it isn’t the independence that can create someone who doesn’t play well with others. It is the freedom of independent thinking; the freedom of mobility; and the freedom of creativity, to put it into context.
I want to be a model of the positive benefits of independence as a lifelong pursuit.”
Is a life ‘approach’ something on your want list? To be paying attention to discernment. To model a ways of being. Is the stage of your life influencing how you answer the question,‘What do I want?’
I invite you to add responses in the chat.
A few responses dealt with partnerships. There were wishes for companionship in an honest, comfortable relationship.
We hold in love this morning those who heard the question, ‘What do I want?’ and found themselves grappling with the reality that what they most wanted can no longer be. Loss is difficult. Limits are hard.
In the naming of what can’t be, maybe there will be light on some new way of seeing the question? Maybe just a glimmer. If not now, maybe soon. And there’s the reminder of our need for gentleness around our desires.
On limits in 2022 are impacted by reality of what we’re most wanting two years into a pandemic.
AL – My wants are many, my needs few. World Peace and more remain high on the list, but at this moment in my life- mid Covid- my greatest ‘want’ is simply to laugh! A good, hearty belly laugh that can brings tears and have your shaking in silent mirth. No grins or polite smiles- I’m talking serious laughter! It’s been too long since I’ve shared the intimate connection of pure joy with some dear people in my life, kindred souls who can find humor in the darnest things –and sometimes at the most inappropriate, irreverent times. There’s a special intimacy with those who share histories and life experiences and can tap into this with each other. It fuels the laughter that can bring comfort and healing. Sadly, Covid has limited our opportunities to meet and share perspectives on Life, even in these crazy time, and often- dare I say- with dark humor. And we miss it- I miss it. For us, laughter can move aside the ever present worry and fear from our daily lives and create space for this sweetest of human connections. It is something to be celebrated. And on rare occasions now, we do! And then, we laugh.
It feels a spiritual need, this want for laughter. We see how the line between need and want blurs. We need the intimacy of deep, joyful connections.
Finally, some, like AD earlier, so expressed their wants as visions of what hope could be; what they hope will be. These next responses help us all imagine our hopes for humankind.
ST- “I want my caring put into action so it works towards making a difference. I care about knowing the truth but don’t always really see it. I want others to care enough about the truth to turn away from those who speaks lies. I want to care enough about the earth to make good choices in my everyday living and to softly encourage others to do the same. I want to care enough to really listen to people and to learn from those who aren’t able to have the opportunities I have, to be treated fairly with equity. I want to care enough to help make this country, this state a safer place for everyone to go to school, to work, to worship, to live their lives.”
DS – “I have had some time this week to give serious thought to this question. I at first thought of my immediate concerns for personal and family health and well-being, to the wider picture of what do I really want for our world. The overwhelming concept, which has been with me throughout my life, and has been a guiding influence: I want Earthlings (homo sapiens) to recognize the gift we have received in living on Planet Earth, with all of its mystery, beauty, and complexity, and that we need to be so much more responsible for our actions and activities – which now threaten all of life on this planet. I want to see an awakening, not just among like-minded people, but in the ‘doers’ and ‘shakers’ – those that have the power to change things and the way they are being done.
TJ – I want a world filled with peace and love. I want a world where we care about the well-being of every person, not one where we only care about what else we can gain for ourselves. I want a world where we truly listen to one another, find acceptance, and refuse to pass judgement. Why do I want these things? I think about how wonderful it would be not to turn on the news and hear about someone’s death, or hate for another person, or tragedy in someone’s life just because someone didn’t take the time to care. I imagine in my mind a world where what we see and hear are stories of love, success and caring for one another. A world, whereby working together we ended poverty, famine, and terrible diseases.
JR – I want to live into my UUism through my actions and be consistently accepting, caring, with compassion for all. I want this to be natural, without worry that my actions aren’t consistent, without worrying about how my actions appear to others
Gratitude to all who submitted responses.
Back on January 2 we talked about our canvas of the new year. We invited one another to pause before we set goals, and wrote lists. (Sermon is online in text and video.) Responding the ‘What do I want?’ is a part of reflecting more deeply before we dive forward.
The question helps us look inward; it helps us envision, with some clarity, what we desire. The answer might provide insights on what matters most deeply to us.
The question also helps us avoid spending too much time on other questions: ‘What don’t I want? Or ‘What don’t I like?’ These are not bad questions. It’s good to name what we don’t like. To let it out. To articulate what needs change. Yet, if we get stuck on the ‘what I don’t like’ questions – and perseverate there, chewing over and over on what we don’t want, it can eat a hole in our soul.
When we answer the question, ‘What do I want?’ it is unlikely that God, or Santa, or our partner, or our employer, will miraculously deliver what we want. It might happen; it’s just not likely, at least not in a direct way.
It’s more that when we name what we want, something in us might shift. Maybe it helps us simplify of a challenge, or maybe it remind us to offer care to ourselves and others. It might help as we set priorities. This is pretty much how I think of prayer. Prayer opens a window of me to shift.
Importantly the question is also a reminder that everyone has wants.All 8 billion others who we share the planet with. If we have can answer the question, ‘What do I want?’ others can as well. In asking one another the question ‘What do you want?’ we are saying wants and desires are ok, are welcomed, even necessary.
Taking into account the hopes and dreams of others is part of interconnection. And maybe in comparing our answers a fresh way of imagining new possibilities may come into focus.
At the congregational level, we grow when together we ask: ‘What do we want?’ It’s part of framing a direction, of planning, of stewardship and of leadership development. There can be collective answers to the question.
In our asking, we might find insight into our own next right step. And as often as not, our own next right step – if guided by a spiritual reflection – will be a next right step as we move toward the world we dream about.
May It Be So