Living Along the Fault Lines

Unitarian Universalism calls us to honour the value of the primacy of choice in matters of our life, and also in our dying.  On a pastoral visit this year, I was introduced to the book

 BEING MORTAL:  Medicine and What Matters in the End

by Atul Gawande

Gawande is a surgeon seeking to revolutionize our evolving cultural (mis)understanding of living and dying.  He challenges our society’s medicalization of aging and subsequent priorities of the existing health care system.  Dr. Gawande writes:  “A few conclusions become clear when we understand this: that our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.”

Congregational life calls us to witness one another’s joys and sufferings. One of our Sunday morning rituals is the witnessing of one another’s joys and sorrows – we light candles of hope in honour of the triumphs and trials of our individual lives held in the loving bond of community.   So we understand Gawande’s analysis:  “In the end, people don't view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people's minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.”

Meaning-making in suffering is also the theme of the novel

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

by John Green

This unlikely love story between two teenagers with cancer asks us to ponder the meaning we make to one another.  It will break your heart wide open.