This time of year, all over the Northern hemisphere, cultures look to the final harvest of the year and what is to be stored for later, for food or for planting, and what is to be composted or tilled back into the soil. It is the time of year when people think about their ancestors and what wisdom has been passed down.
This is the season of evaluating what we have; choosing what serves us well, and what we might be able to let go of. That applies to ideas, beliefs, and habits as much as mementos and agricultural goods. Letting go matters, because our sense of self is made up of what we have absorbed and what we cling to.
Each of us is a collection of things we’ve absorbed in life. We are made of the stuff of stars, passed through volcanoes and rivers to plants and animals, down to our ancestors to form us. The thoughts we think are formed of words created hundreds of years ago, right alongside ideas that are younger than our bodies. Our sense of self is rooted in a culture that dates back thousands of years. We don’t always control what comes into our lives or our heads. We can choose what gets to live there long-term.
Aging is inevitable…
Unitarian Universalism makes one promise about life and death: one day you will move from one to the other. We focus, instead, on what you choose to carry with you in the meantime and what you multiply in the world through sharing with others.
Love may be unlimited, as the human heart seems capable of loving dozens of people. Our time and energy, like the space available for storing things, is limited, though. We have to make choices about how we will invest our energy and what we spend time doing. When we see that our efforts aren’t making the kind of impact we are proud of, we need to be able to change our priorities and let something go. Till it into your past, and allow something new to grow from it.
…but growth is a choice.
Our past is not forgotten just because we chose to move on from it. What matters is learning from it.
We do not claim special knowledge about what comes after this life, though many of us believe things based on our own perceptions or deductions. We do not teach that there is an afterlife, or that there is not one; only that it makes little sense to spend this life planning for what we cannot promise. Every human life will end. You should live yours knowing that what you do now, in this world, can matter. It can matter more (or less) than you ever imagined, so make sure that you do what you believe to be best.
Dia de los Muertos – National Geographic
Native American Harvest Feasts Before Thanksgiving
Samhain – The Irish New Year from Irish culture and customs
Samhain introduction from The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids