During my remarks on August 17 — my first Sunday “on-duty” at People’s Church — I suggested that my vocational journey over the past half-century has incorporated two over-arching themes: Stuff That’s True (STT), and Stuff That Matters (STM). The theme of my first career, as a research scientist in marine geology, was STT. My colleagues and I gathered and interpreted empirical evidence – testable by follow-up research – leading to greater understanding of our earth, the origins of life upon earth and in the oceans, and the critical threshold events / “tipping points” that served as the pacemakers of life’s unfolding as it has. The theme of my second career, as a Unitarian Universalist minister for 27+ years, has been STM: I have sought to engage the ambiguities, contradictions, heartbreaks, and joys of becoming more fully alive, and thereby being open (and vulnerable) to contingencies. I suggested that STT and STM are complementary and overlapping realms of inquiry, and are neither competing nor mutually exclusive. Yet each deserves our full engagement, with our minds and with our hearts, if we are to live authentically and in healthy, life-giving relationships and communities.
During the coming months, I will use the title “STT and STM” for my monthly newsletter columns. The emphasis between the two will vary from month-to-month. Both dimensions contribute to Wisdom, in its broadest sense. STT is about Information. STM is about Motivation and Transformation: In a word, STM involves overcoming our “blind spots” / learned limitations, and developing the agility, resilience, and adaptive capacities to engage life’s contingencies, paradoxes, conflicts, and surprises. In a word, STM is about becoming more ADROIT.
You’ll notice that I am rather like a hunter / gatherer: I glean and sift “the best of what we know” from the past, and experiment (or “tinker”) with the available spare parts to cobble together new combinations / arrangements. Most of my ideas have probably been spoken by others previously, and far more eloquently. Even so, I seek to re-frame the best of what we know from the past into open-ended, engaging questions that will prompt imaginative thinking. “Right questions” are the goal.
I conclude with two short quotations from Anne Lamott: One of a half-dozen contemporary authors to whom I frequently return. In her recent book (2012) entitled Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Anne observes:
“…the three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you.”
“Light reveals us to ourselves, which is not always so great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own creation. But like sunflowers we turn toward light. Light warms, and in most cases it draws us to itself. And in this light, we can see beyond our modest receptors, to what is way beyond us, and deep inside.”
I look forward to meeting each of you, and for conversation opportunities to consider STT and STM — for your one-of-a-kind lives. Best wishes, as summer draws to a close.
Rev. Dave Johnson, Interim Minister, People’s Church of Kalamazoo, 2014-2015
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