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President's Latitudinarian Column

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

One of the best-known Buddhist meditations is the Metta bhavana, commonly translated from the original Pali as “Loving Kindness Meditation.” It begins with the self, “May I be filled with loving kindness; May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger; May I be safe and protected.” It then extends outward. “May you be filled with loving kindness…” Finally, in the third iteration, the prayer begins “May all beings everywhere be filled with loving kindness…”. If this sounds familiar, a version of this is found in the teal hymnal.

The Metta Prayer starts with “May I…”. When an airliner suddenly depressurizes, parents are admonished to put their own oxygen masks on first, before they put them on their children. With the current quarantine, we need to get ourselves situated, mentally and physically before we can help others.

Like most people, this has meant some radical changes in my whole way of operating in the world. I have been scrambling, setting up to work from home. My computer situation includes some put-off tasks that are suddenly imperatives. My physical workspace is the clutter room, badly in need of organization to function effectively.

While I enjoy giving occasional dinner parties, the sad truth is that I get most of my meals out and am unaccustomed to maintaining a kitchen on an ongoing basis, rarely thinking ahead before the hunger pangs prompt me to action. Fortunately, I restocked my emergency food and household supplies several weeks before the shelves even started to empty.

Some tease about the Latter-Day Saints’ (Mormon) practice of maintaining a year’s supply of food. Even LDS brides joke about what they will do with a wedding gift of fifty pounds of dried apples. But those of us who can afford to do so should maintain (and rotate) several weeks supply so we will not overcome the ability of those living paycheck-to-paycheck to acquire food in an emergency, whether it is a weather or epidemic challenge to our food system.

Moving to the “May you…”, we must look out for our family, friends and neighbors and that includes our church family. As I write this, we are in the process of learning how to connect as a community using newer technologies, for our worship services, our religious education for children, youth and adults, and our committee work and especially caring for each other. In the first week, our recorded worship services had an unexpectedly high number of hits. With the help of John Faber, our tech coordinator, our web page at has become a hub for our connectivity.

There is much more to come, and your ideas are welcome. How about a virtual church “Happy Hour” on Fridays? Coffee house concerts? Resurrecting small groups? At the same time, we need to reach out to those who might be less technologically savvy. It is possible to use zoom® on a land line, for example. Volunteers might help others to get up to speed. We are still on a learning curve.

“May all beings everywhere…”. What for us is a major inconvenience or even a chance to reflect and regroup can be a horror for those who already experience hardship. According to the U.N., there are about 70 million displaced persons around the world. This includes not only refuges from wars in Syria and Yemen, but also refugees in our neighboring states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, and other areas on the border, who are forced into squalid camps while they await a decision on asylum in the U.S. There are many others in ICE detention. These are breeding grounds for contagion.

Homelessness is already a major problem and will likely grow as the economy drags to a halt. Already lacking medical services, the coming of the virus to these communities has the potential to cause greater numbers of fatalities and deleterious long-term effects than in the general population.

Beyond the human costs, conservation and climate change efforts may fall by the wayside. Just one example, mountain gorilla protection in the African central highlands may already be succumbing to reduced funding and even the potential for the gorillas to catch the virus.

We must find a way to ensure that once we have protected ourselves and those immediately around us, we continue our work in the larger world where it is needed so much. UU’s are resourceful and I have faith that we will do what we can, showing loving kindness in all that we do.

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