Last night we Salem Universists got together for our third meeting, this time at the Blue Pepper coffee house in downtown Salem. Once again our discussion covered a lot of ground: fear of death, reality of evil, contacts with departed souls, moving from fundamentalism to open-mindedism, among other subjects.
I’d told my fellow Tai Chi students about the group and invited them to drop in on the meeting. Jill and Connie did. In the two hours that we spent together on the couches in the Blue Pepper loft I felt like I came to know them much better. As I did Laura, Tom, and Laurel, the Universist old-timers.
Yes, I even learned some new things about my wife. And I’m pretty sure the same was true for her, since I spoke my mind in a somewhat different way than I had before. All six of us revealed deep thoughts and feelings about how we view God, the afterlife, human relationships, the meaning of it all.
Chit-chat is fine. I love to talk about politics, sports, and other typical coffee house conversation topics. But when we get down to conversing about what means the most to us—our deepest beliefs, hopes, fears, sureties, uncertainties—that’s when the covers get stripped away and I feel like I’m truly beginning to understand the heart of someone else (or myself).
I’m enjoying how our group is able to come together around the general search for life’s meaning, rather than a specific answer. I mean, until now every religious or spiritual group that I’ve been involved with has been centered on a discrete path. If you don’t want to buy into that path, then you’re always going to be an outsider.
But last night the six of us talked about our decidedly different paths. Our commonality was that we all are still searching. None of us believe that our spiritual path, as defined or ill-defined as it may be, is the only way. That’s refreshing.
I never felt any judgment or negativity from anyone else, no matter what I said. We agreed and disagreed politely, though often firmly. I talked quite a bit about my fear of death and uncertainty about what will happen after I take my last breath.
Per usual, I found it easy to answer the question, “Why are you so afraid of death?” “Because I’m going to be dead!” I was inspired by how other people seemingly are ready to embrace dying. I’m not. Hopefully when the moment comes, I will be.
If I am, some of the credit will go to the people who listened to me last night. We all need people to lean on, the churchless as well as the churched. Members of organized religions have a built-in support group that they see every Sunday (or whenever).
I’m pleased that we Salem Universists are starting to form our own source of spiritual support. It isn’t answers that I need from other people; it’s an affirmation of my questioning and a simple “Yes, I hear you.”