“We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”
To the sound of an electric organ, intentionally evoking the feeling of Church, Prince outlined the reason that liberal religion, void of creedal certainty and dogma, is still important. We gather together to get through life.
Later in the song, “Let’s Go Crazy” (not a considerate title, mind you), he sings,
We’re all excited
But we don’t know why.
Maybe it’s ’cause
We’re all gonna die.
This line came to mind the first time I read Rev. Forrest Church’s idea that “Religion is the human response to being alive and having to die.” At some point, most of us realize that life is finite, meaning that our experiences; the number of books we will read or people we will get to know or foods we will taste, they are all finite as well. For some of us, coming together to share our experiences and to learn from others about those experiences that we will never have ourselves alleviates some of the pain or stress that comes with a sense of mortality. Knowing that we can hear about those experiences is comforting and we share our own in return so that those things which make us who we have become can live on, in a sense, beyond us.
I find myself wondering, from time to time, why I am a Unitarian Universalist. It is a label without a clear meaning some days, and it is not a complete description of my spirituality, but it has become my religious identity. A big part of that is the community. So much of my relationship to the divine is personal. I cannot invite others into that relationship, but I can share the experience. I can listen to their story and learn something that has escaped me. I can be better at being me because I am in relationship, in covenant, with people who care about one another and who encourage me to be my best.
I think Prince was wrong when he sings that, “In this life, you’re on your own.” It doesn’t have to be that way.
We come together to get through life, and I, for one, am better for it.