UUs, DENTISTRY, AND THE UPSIDE-DOWN YEAR
One of my favorite life-guiding books is How to Want What You Have, by Timothy Miller, PhD, a clinical psychologist. (It’s in our Joy Library.) With numerous examples and anecdotes of human behavior from his clinical experience, he lays out a thoughtful approach to life, distilled down to three principles: Compassion, Attention, and Gratitude, with an emphasis on the present moment. If we can live in the Moment, the “Precious Present,” the greatest rewards and satisfactions in life can be found in small things and simple pleasures. Unfortunately we are all hard-wired to constantly crave more. Let these cravings cease. Try thinking of this earth as the only comfortable home for us in this universe: the Pleasure Planet. “…It’s another gray, rainy day on the Pleasure Planet. What lovely, cool, sweet-smelling fog they have here! [OR: It’s another frigid wintry day on the Pleasure Planet. The sky is blue, the air is fresh and crisp, and the landscape is highlighted with beautiful white snow and glistening ice! ] … I’m going to the dentist on the Pleasure Planet. How nice the dentists are here. How kind they are to provide sterile instruments, music, and Novocaine. Pain here on the Pleasure Planet is hardly ever severe…”
I was thinking about this last week while lying in the dentist’s chair, having new dental fillings placed. Dr Miller was right: you just have to have the right perspective … (although, at times, it was useful also to use a little mindful breath-attention, to avoid over-reacting to something which was almost painful.) Certainly, I am grateful for modern dentistry. (Consider the alternatives.)
And I’m grateful for mindfulness and relaxation techniques I’ve learned.
And I’m very grateful for Unitarian Universalism. It hasn’t always been here, and I doubt that it was pre-destined to exist. I don’t quite know where I’d be without it, since I’m not pacifist enough to be a Quaker, and I’m too far from NYC to have the Society for Ethical Culture as my community. The UU Association came into being in 1961, with the merger of the Unitarians (AUA – American Unitarian Association) and Universalists (UCA – Universalist Church in America.)
It was an unusual event, going against the more dominant trend of schisms and separations which mark much of religious history, especially Christian Protestantism.
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, in 1961, being only 13 years old. One of my visual memories of that year is the MAD magazine cover proclaiming 1961 as an Upside-Down Year (the first since 1881, the last till 6009.) So maybe the UU merger event was unusual enough to be considered “upside-down”… a statement of creative compromise and commonality, as opposed to proud individuality and independence … the dominant spirit of Do Your Own Thing in the 60’s.
Of course, 1961 was just one point in a long history of particular circumstances and courageous individuals which brought us to Albany UU in 2019. The result is this — our vibrant community of warmth and shared values, committed to cooperative work for social justice and a better planet. Challenges abound here, but so do inspirational people. For this community I’m very grateful. I have this, and I want it.
Oh, and in dentistry, in 1961 … the first electric toothbrush was introduced. I don’t have one.
And I don’t want one. At least in this, too, I’ll want what I have.
Trustee, Fred Eames