No answers, but great conversation about the questions. That’s how our Salem Universists monthly get-together went last night at the Blue Pepper coffee house. A couple of new members (who are a couple themselves) joined us: Eva and Matt.
As Eva says on her Meetup member page, she and Matt recently escaped from Roseburg. Progressive, open-minded, and non-religious people that they are, living in Roseburg turned out not to be a good fit for these ex-San Diego residents. Eva noted that in southern California diversity is embraced; in most of rural Oregon, Christian conservatism is the accepted norm.
Here are a few remembrances from the meeting.
My wife, Laurel, walks into the meeting room (late as usual), looks at Eva, and says “Don’t I know you? Haven’t I seen you somewhere?” Indeed, she had. At the Minto-Brown off-leash dog park a few weeks ago, where Eva’s two purebred German Shepherds and our Shepherd-colored half-breed brought the women together to talk about all things doggish.
And now they see each other again in a completely different setting. A small world. Karma. Coincidence. Destiny. Random event. None of us knew which, if any, of these words fit the situation. “Interesting,” we could all agree on.
Eva (Mather) originally is from Germany. I enjoyed hearing her talk about the differences between Europe and the United States. “In Europe it’s considered bad form to ask someone you just met what his or her job is,” she said. “Here, it’s usually one of the first questions: Glad to meet you, Joe. What do you do?”
Luckily I hadn’t asked Eva and Donn what they did when they introduced themselves. It never occurred to me. I’m not much interested in people’s professions, actually. Job talk usually bores me. Last night I mentioned that I can’t stand chit-chat, which is why I enjoy the Universists meetings so much. By and large we talk about fairly deep subjects: life, death, happiness, despair, and, yes, dogs (yesterday, at least).
I enjoyed Donn’s story about a fishing trip on a coastal river that he took recently. A large fish was caught (a salmon, I believe). Someone grabbed a bat and starting hitting the fish on the head to kill it. Donn heard him say, “You can tell when it’s dead by the cold eyes.”
Donn may be on the way to becoming a non-fisherman, for it suddenly struck him that one moment the fish was a conscious living being, and another moment it wasn’t—after being hit on the head. He looked toward the banks of the river and saw cows standing in a field. Conscious cows, watching the boat go by.
How similar are they and the fish to us? It’s impossible to say. But we all agreed that animals in general, and dogs in particular, are considerably more intelligent and aware than most people give them credit for. Laurel observed that some parrots not only can speak in coherent sentences (not just “parroting” words) but also appear to have ESP, being able to say what their owner in another room is thinking about.
“The universe is connected,” Eva said. Even more amazing, she told us, is that it exists. I could relate to that statement. I’ve often thought myself about the marvelous mystery of the two simple words: existence exists.
Eva spoke about looking out a window one morning and feeling so thankful that she and the universe existed. For it could have been otherwise. Nothingness could have been rather than being. Or more accurately, nothing could have been, not even nothing.
With life there’s a lot to be thankful for, and you don’t have to be religious to recognize that. For two hours we in the Blue Pepper conference room shared what I’d call a “spiritual sense” that felt a heck of a lot more real than the preachy churchy variety.
Plus, I could sip a vanilla latte and eat a bagel with cream cheese during our unchurch’s unservice. Works for me.