part of a garment that is drawn in or pulled together
Bring together from scattered places. Draw in.
~ Octavia Raheem
I intentionally spent most of this summer as participant in and observer of humans gathering. I was in deep reflection upon what drives communities of people to get together, especially in this time when so many communities of faith – no matter the tradition -- are diminishing in numbers.
I wondered in what ways are needs being met – if at all -- in the many different gatherings of humans?
In June I began with the multi-generational gatherings of my family. Lots of music, laughter, food, rambunctious toddlers running about, tweens and teens being persuaded from their electronic devices, and my mother basking in the joy of being in the presence of her progeny. I don’t know that Mom thought of it that way, it’s just what occurred to me as I watched her delight.
I next attended the largest gathering I participated in all summer: UU General Assembly (GA). GA has thousands of UUs from around the country as well as internationally, participating in person and now online as well. I always find this gathering both curious and fascinating, seeing who we are as a collective, the whole of what we have each chosen to be a part of. And that our congregation is a sliver of that whole. Sensing that, despite our differences as UUs, there is nonetheless something quite similar winding its way amid us all. As I walked the streets of Pittsburgh around the convention center and hotels, I could spot a UU from a distance even when they were not wearing a nametag, or I didn’t know them personally.
I travelled to Taos, New Mexico and visited with friends and their animals, attended a writer’s conference there, and several music concerts. Though only one other person at the conference was a regular writer of sermons, I was enriched being among those who had a serious enough appreciation for the written word that they plunked down good money to learn how to do it better and to commune with others.
I loved the concerts too. A jazz concert in a small art museum where “jazz heads” (aka nerds) were greatly absorbed in the music, something I appreciated as a professed jazz head myself. This seems to be a trend in museum gatherings these days as I attended two highly-attended jazz concerts at the NC Museum of Art as well. There was also a rock music concert at a park in Taos that featured Grammy Award winning Native American musicians (I unfortunately cannot recall the names of their groups). While I enjoyed their music, what I most appreciated was how family friendly this gathering was as adults and children of all ages participated well into the evening.
At several Buddhist retreats I gathered with others in meditation, chanting, and the experiential learning of Buddhist texts through dharma talks, hiking mountain paths, and canoeing a river. While I don’t believe most of the people at the retreats considered themselves Buddhist, they all seemed to possess a hungry desire for something…. More. Perhaps it was how to be a better person, or understanding their suffering, or the simple nurturing of peace of mind and good spirit.
I gathered with one group on retreat who I first came to know as strangers and we formed a profoundly kind and helpful community over a few short days simply because we chose to honor our interconnection.
And this I realized, was the More within all those summer gatherings. Our interconnection. The reason we came together, consciously or unconsciously.
Which is why I am still thinking about this and about them.
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