It was so nice to hear how many of you enjoyed last Sunday’s worship service and our adventure into Wonderland! So, I thought I’d offer an additional pondering about one of my favorite Alice scenes that I didn’t have time to touch upon during worship- when Alice meets the Caterpillar.
You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gpt2Zb5V5A
In this scene, Alice is struggling to understand who she is, as she seems to have changed so much just in one day as she’s met different characters. She’s found her way into this wonderland by being curious about what she perceives to be more interesting than the history lesson her sister was trying to teach her, and now she seems to be bumping up against different aspects of her own personality. When she encounters the caterpillar, he asks her to stop and contemplate who she is by asking “who r u?” and blowing smoke in her face. She responds with not knowing and asks him who he is. He asks, “y?” As if to say, why does knowing who I am have anything to do with you knowing yourself?
Get to know yourself, Alice, because (as we find out from the Chesire Cat) you are in the Red Queen’s world, and if you don’t know who you are then you are subject to the ways and whims of a tyrant and “you haven’t got a way,” as the smiling cat informs her.
The lesson for us, then, is to be sure we know who we are and what our deepest core values are because these should be leading the way in all we do, so as not to get lost in Wonderland. This means being explicit about writing down the values that we will not compromise on so that when we bump up against characters that challenge us, we keep our decisions in line with who we are. Knowing who we are can give us courage.
This reminds me of the work we did last year when beginning the work of rewriting our mission statement. First, we had to tell individual stories about holy experiences in our lives, stories that would reveal what we held closest to our hearts. It was amazing to me to hear the “wow’s” after a story was told and I revealed to someone the values I pulled out of it. As adults, we think we know ourselves well, but when someone reflects back to you- and is explicit about- the values you reveal through your stories, it surely enhances your individual enlightenment. If you haven’t yet done this exercise, I encourage you to come see me and try it out!
Ultimately, knowing ourselves as individuals will enhance our collective efforts and shared work. Being able to articulate our values and set our moral compass in a specific direction will help to create- and normalize- a culture and determine the outcomes of our justice work. This UUCL community has already determined that our shared values are : Love, Connection, and Transformation. What kind of church culture can we build around that? How can our church culture help to influence what the larger culture looks like?
Who are you? Who are we? How do we find our way and liberate all the interesting characters in Wonderland from the oppressive actions of the Red Queen’s ways and whimsies?