In “the Norton Anthology of World Religions” there is an article about Hinduism by Wendy Doniger. She describes how there are many different strands within Hinduism and that no single set of ideas or practices will apply to all Hindus. She goes on to say:
“This polytheistic approach could be represented by a Venn diagram, a chart made of intersecting circles. It might be grouped into sectors of different colors, one for beliefs or practices that some Hindus share with Buddhists and Jains, another largely confined to Hindu texts in Sanskrit…a third more characteristic of popular worship and practice, and so forth. But since there is no single central quality that all Hindus must have, the emptiness in the center suggests that the figure might better be called a Zen diagram, a Venn diagram that has no central ring.”
Whether she is correct in her assessment of Hinduism or not, that sense of emptiness in the center–a positive emptiness–seems to me quite apt for Unitarian Universalism.
We contain within our ranks theists and humanists, Buddhists and Pagans, seekers and knowers, the easily classified and the not-at-all-possible to classify and many others.
Our sacred texts vary from person to person – some finding truth in many written texts from the Upanishads to ‘Abdu’lBaha, others finding it in poetry, others in the sacred web of nature, and still others in music.
Our statement of Principles and Purposes is just that; a suggested and changeable statement of what we could agree upon thirty years ago and it is not a creed.
A Venn diagram of our beliefs and practices would have an open ring in the center.
I used the term “positive emptiness” for that central part of the diagram as I do not see it or feel it as a “lacking” emptiness. Rather, to me it represents an openness that is full given all that surrounds it, but an openness that then allows me to pour in what is important for me.
What is most Unitarian Universalist to me is the ability that I have to explore varied religious texts and practices without fear of being “cast out”.
Of course, that very openness, that central positive emptiness, makes Unitarian Universalism very difficult to describe. Imagine an “elevator speech” of Unitarian Universalism that begins with, “Well, we have this empty space in the center of our beliefs”.
If anything does fill that center, it is covenant; our agreements to be with one another on our religious journeys.
Let our covenants, both written and lived, be ones of love and support.