Archive for October, 2010


Metaphor Man…

When I taught at University High School in Urbana, IL more than 20 years ago, I once had a student who occasionally would wear a T-shirt on which were written the words “Metaphor Man.”  When I first saw it, I think I said something like “Metaphor Man?”  On later occasions, I would drop my voice an octave to issue a definitive (and superhero appropriate) “Metaphor Man!”  As I recall, every time I saw him with that shirt, he would respond as if I asked him a question about the shirt (I think he got a lot of that).  He would say: “I am a powerful locomotive!”  “I am a speeding bullet!”  “I am a tall building!”  I loved the T-shirt and I loved the student’s response.

What’s this got to do with religious development?  Well, I thought I should try, in these early posts, to state some of my beliefs and practices.  At this point in my life, I do not believe in an interventionist God — were there such a fellow, I cannot believe, if God is Love, that there would be so much hatred and violence in the world.  Hitler and Stalin wouldn’t have ever had the chance to do all the damage they did, nor would Idi Amin, or others — the whole mess in Darfur would not happen.  I can’t accept the premise of Jesus Christ as my personal savior — the concept of someone else redeeming me seems peculiar. 

Those points made, let me return to metaphor and how important a matter it is in my life and belief.  All language is metaphoric — words are not the things to which they refer, but markers or signifiers.  They take their meaning in connection with other words arranged in a meaningful pattern.  Language also enables us to speak truths (and lies) which may not be apparent.  A lot of scientific truths began as a hypotheses — powerful statements of what could be — before they became scientific laws. 

And so, let me demonstrate where this idea of metaphor can go.  Though I don’t believe in a personal or interventionist God, I find imagining a God (a metaphoric God) to be comforting, and useful.  For me, the idea of God, especially the God is Love figure, and God as Parent figure, make room in my brain for the following hypotheses — only God can judge, and so I’ll try to be less judgmental, because I am not God.  If God is Love, then at any point when we act in a hurtful way (and I’ve done plenty of that in my life), we are off the path, at least if we want to live a life that is in accord with God.  If God is our parent, then all of use are children of God, and what happens to gays and lesbians, minorities, the poor, the Muslims, pagans, or any other group that might find itself boxed in by the dominant culture is happening to those who are our brothers and sisters. 

So I don’t pray to the big guy in the sky — I never really did — I went through the motions as a kid, and when I was really scared, those motions had a certain frenetic energy to them.  But some of the metaphors of religion I find valuable and, for me, at least, they offer a way for me to sit in the larger mystery all about us with some sense of grace and gratitude.

Speaking my truth in love,



Henry David Thoreau, I’m not…

Given the current chaos at my place of worship for the last 16 years or so, I do not feel that my continued (physical) presence there is conducive to peace of mind, or spiritual growth.  I am not interested in squabbling, and feel that I have only my own soul to risk in some of the infighting I’ve seen.  Consequently, I’ve decided, though I have not resigned my membership to retreat for a while.  In my Catholic background, retreats are an opportunity to get some perspective by stepping out, to the extent possible, from the day-to-day troubles of life.  Of course, as a very passionate person, I have often retreated from situations when I felt my anger get the better of me.  In a way, I am retreating from All Souls for both reasons.  I do not want to voice my anger, and I need some distance to put things in perspective.  I am calling this blog All-Soulo in honor of my religious home for the past 16 years, while also acknowledging that I am, for a while, largely going it alone.  This does not mean that I will be an hermit, like Mr. Thoreau, or some of the saints of my youth, such as St. Jerome, or the ever popular Simeon Stylites, who sat atop a column for years.  I haven’t the discipline or solitary disposition for that. 

A former minister at All Souls, John Weston, stated in one of his sermons that he did not believe that a solitary path was as valuable as walking the path in community.  One problem is that one’s personal feelings and ideas are not challenged when one sticks only to oneself.  Still, I’ve often thought that it would be worthwhile, for a little bit to try this solitary path.  Not that I’m ever alone.  I do have a small group of friends with whom I discuss all sorts of ideas, and there are all those great thinkers, whose ideas are ever buzzing around in my head.  But retreat from the busyness of church life, especially during a time of turmoil, may allow me to be a better UU, a better person, and someone with something valuable to offer when I return. 

I hope, in these postings — I shall be sure to post at  least once per week, on Sundays — though I may post on other days, especially when I read something or hear something that inspires me to write.  I’m hoping that, by these postings, I may develop a community of fellow travelers and learn to tighten my thinking and expanding my feeling.  To that end,

I remain, speaking my truth in love,

Bernard Norcott-Mahany