Life Reflections . . . So Far

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Life Reflections . . . So Far

By Paul Phariss

You’ve no doubt detected a theme to this mornings proceedings thus far. I have reached an age where, when I enter a room with a number of people in it, I tend to look around to see how many people in the room may be older than I am. I see I’m not alone in that. There’s an amusing saying making the rounds these days, “I always knew I’d get old, I just never expected it to happen so fast.”

For those who know Rebecca and I well, you know we met in this church. I guess it was somewhat of a sensation when we started living together, most seem to remember it. What may amaze you if you were there at the time is, it was 22 years ago! There are people in this room who weren’t even born when we started living together who are now adults! If we had met when we were in our twenties, we could very well have been together 50 years by now. I wonder if it would have seemed to fly by as fast. I have an idea it would have.

It was suggested that I don’t do the entire service this morning, let someone else be service leader, etc. I said, no, I’ll do the whole thing. It’s not so much vanity, I just don’t know how much longer I’ll have to do things up here, so I’ll grab all the time I can while I have it left.

Emily gave an excellent talk this summer while we were away, but which I read the text of, on the problems facing young people nowadays, looking at their future and what is in store. Interestingly enough, when I was her age I could have written something very similar. Never knew if I’d ever own my own home, debt was a constant problem. There was a stupid war on, and when I went to my 10th hi-school reunion, everyone was a little afraid of asking about anyone not there, for fear they’d been killed in southeast Asia. We had a buffoon for a president who eventually wound up resigning, because he was a dishonest crook. OH…..for history to repeat itself!!!

We marched in the streets for an end to the war and for equal rights for women and people of color. Many of us (not me, thankfully) got arrested, or got our heads bashed in for what we believed.

OH……for history to STOP repeating itself!!!

I’ve lived a pretty good life. Particularly the last 22 years. I’ve been blessed with a sense of humor which has gotten me out of many sticky situations, and a voice that’s allowed me to be looked on, I think, with some envy. I’ve unfortunately been cursed for the majority of my life with terminal stage fright. Becoming music director hereabouts cured that, and now I do play some around town to seemingly appreciating crowds, though at 71 years of age, don’t anticipate giving any teenage girls the vapors when I get on stage. But it is fun, and I appreciate that people enjoy me for now.

So what’s next? Well, from most of the majority of presented evidence, I’m apparently going to continue getting older. I don’t want to alarm the young people present…..but you are too.

And as a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to, well…death. Not that I anticipate it happening soon. On the contrary, I’m going to do my best to put it off as long as possible. But I’m 71 years closer to it happening than I’ve ever been in my life, and maybe it’s time to start considering it as a possibility.

It’s interesting to note here that we should give some thought to our immediate surroundings. This is a church. Over the course of my life, it has occurred to me that religion is, for the most part, a lot of hooey made up by people a long time ago who needed something to soothe their souls while others were dying all around them. Churches were formed pretty much for just that purpose….that is to make sure you were going to the “right place” when you died.

There are many differing views on just what, or where, that “right place” is. Behind me, there are banners representing 8 different religious beliefs. (That’s not all there are, by the way. That’s not even a drop in the bucket!) As Unitarian Universalists, we are open to study any and all beliefs, and to take whatever views we want about them. However…if you belong to any of the churches represented by the banners behind me, you likely know it is the ONLY true religion, and in several cases, you will be subjected to eternal damnation if you don’t believe what is taught therein.

I was raised a Conservative Baptist, who teach that there is a “lake of fire” waiting for the souls who don’t accept, and a “city of golden streets and ivory palaces” for those who do. When I was a little boy, I burnt the palm of my hand by testing my moms iron to see if it was hot. It was. My grandmother, who I loved dearly, informed me, that’s what hell is like, only all the time.

The other option, gold streets and ivory dwellings, were said to exist in the sky. I held a gold bar once, and was amazed by how heavy it was. I thought of those streets in the sky, and it occurred to me, if there’s ever a malfunction and those buggars fell, somebody could really get hurt!

The question remains, though, what happens to your soul when you do die? There are always those who will say it dies right along with you, but I tend to believe the spirit is too strong to just quit and go away. Besides, my first wife was killed in a car wreck, and due to something resembling “felons guilt”, after my baptist upbringing, I did a lot of investigating on the subject. There is a good deal of compelling evidence that your soul lives on.

So…where? Four religions not represented behind me, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, all Asian religions, believe in reincarnation. If I were going to lean in any direction, I think that would be it. The question is, would you have any choice of what you’d be reincarnated as? Because, I already know what I want to be, and I’m sure most of you probably already know what I’m going to say, right?

Yes, I’d like to come back as a vulture. Now, for the 2 or 3 of you who are skeptical, I have three compelling reasons for believing that vultures are the number one life force on the planet.

1. they never have to work for their food. Here’s how a vultures day goes. It wakes up, shakes out it’s feathers, mopes around and relaxes for a while until it gets hungry, then spreads huge wings, flaps lazily until it gets a little elevation, finds an updraft, and floats all day until it sees or smells something dead. Then it lazily drifts down….never any killing dives or hot pursuits….lands, shakes off the flight, hops to whatever carcass is nearby and eats. Name one other creature that doesn’t have to work in any way for it’s food?
2. No natural enemies. Not even humans. Quick show of hands….the holidays have recently passed, how many of you served up vulture for thanksgiving or christmas dinners? Nothing eats vultures. They can land in a pack of feeding lions, sneak in and grab a bite, and the lions just bat at em with a “get a-WAY” look on their faces.
3. They get to have sex even if they stink.

NOW who’s crazy for wanting to come back as a buzzard?

I worry about my children and my (as yet) one grandchild. So far, they’re doing great. Are we leaving them the world we dreamed it would become when we were young? Right! Looking back, I think maybe our parents weren’t quite as worried about our future as we are about what’s to come. After all, they were the last generation to win a war. Not so sure that parents of young black kids were quite as confidant, though.

Us baby-boomers always considered ourselves pretty lucky. We did, after all, get to live through the ’60s. I lived through it in california, and I gotta tell you, it was a fun time to be alive. Now the planet is suffering from global warming, but hopefully that can be turned around, as most young people nowadays seem to be ready to continue and expand on advancements that look to be heading in the right direction.

Would I love to live forever? You betcha! I have a computer in my pocket! When I was in my 20s, a computer would have covered the concrete block wall behind me, and wouldn’t have held a hundredth of the info in my pocket now. What’s in store in the future?

Hopefully, there’ll be lots of dead carcasses.

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