The Most Important Thing in Life is . . .

A Series of Disputable Questions_HS

This Sunday, September 13,
a special Fall celebration in eleven:eleven,
with guest artists from the UNT One O’Clock Lab Band
and some of your favorite requested songs…

Staff_McDermott, TomRecently, Linda and I stayed at a quirky and colorful, pueblo-style B & B in Taos. One of the appealing qualities of the B & B experience for us is the opportunity to meet people in settings that invite conversation and break down some of the biases and barriers we carry around otherwise. And this certainly proved true that morning as we sat down to breakfast across from an engaging, outgoing couple, who introduced themselves as Dave and Kathy and that they were self-employed, taking a little time off from Vancouver, BC.

Honestly, Linda and I rarely introduce ourselves as ministers, at least not early on — certain professions seem to carry stereotypes, labels (or personal projections and assumptions) where conversations beyond points of introduction suddenly become confessional, contrived or constricted (and, occasionally, contrarian!) Add to that we’re from Texas and, well…

But we’ve found that by sitting quietly and listening we can also gain a better grasp of everyone’s story before stereotypes define the direction of our conversations.

“All the way from Vancouver to Taos!” I said to Kathy, a little surprised. Another B & B guest overheard my statement and chimed in, “Why would anyone want to leave Vancouver to go anywhere?” And everyone laughed.

The Canadian couple smiled and then Kathy told us they were on a spiritual journey, really. “We were in Albuquerque, studying with this writer and spiritual activist, Richard Rohr.”

I knew Linda was smiling inside, as I mentioned that we were familiar with his works and ideas. And when they asked why I’d know about his works and what we did, Linda and I simply talked about teaching, about speaking engagements, about writing and working with people and charitable causes (still gauging who was at the table).

With a little prodding, Dave discussed his own work as a speaker and consultant with businesses, schools, company leadership, and athletes, exploring personal potential and finding common ground and values for working as a staff, or even a community.
Kathy added, “Working from a standpoint of common value, seeking that common point, creates a path for more successful outcomes, no matter what the goals.”

Then Dave added something that has stuck with me since our conversation three days ago. Imagine two people, or even a group of people, trying to work out an issue; but everyone comes at that issue from their individual biases, their closely guarded beliefs, their egoistic rightness about the matter. They’re not likely going to find an agreeable resolution or grounding from which to move forward in their relationship or work or vocation or solution. But there’s a third way — not simply an either or, or yours and mine.

Dave drew a triangle “in the air” and pointed to the top of it, adding, “If they can agree on a higher value, a greater reality; if they could agree on our need, for example, to focus on God, or on deep goodness, or everybody’s need to be connected, then the higher each side raises that common vision or agreement between them, the closer they come toward each other below.”

As he pulled the top point up, it automatically drew the two lower points closer together.

The conversation continued, and we each eventually opened up about our real sense of calling and vocation and where our lives are now — Linda and I both ordained ministers; Dave and Kathy, both Olympian level athletes (Kathy a Canadian gold medalist!)

For the next hour, the four of us talked about finding those common points of vision or passion or need or story that all of us share — the need to feel connected, the longing to be loved, the hope for the experience of joy.

Kathy explained that her gold medal was never the ultimate focus of her training. It was her joy of skiing and growing up around professional skiers. She simply wanted to be a part of the excitement in a family of 10 competitive skiers. The fact that she won Gold, she says, was more a byproduct of her passion than her desperation or necessity or stress to “win.”

We spent a wonderful two and a half hour breakfast with these two new friends and will continue to keep our conversations going.

But as I look forward this Sunday, to the conclusion of our End of Summer Series “A Series of Disputable Questions”, I am wondering, “What’s the most important thing in life, that people of varying backgrounds might agree on, the one thing (if there is such a “one thing”) that can “pull us together” rather than separate us. Of all the questions eleven:eleven participants presented three week Sundays ago, this one only came up a couple of times. But so many others fell under its spell: How do I find happiness? Where is God calling me to be now? If God is so present and real, why are so many people unhappy? And why is there still so much hatred and violence in the world?

And, of course, as we explore this question Sunday, “What’s the most important thing in life?”, it may require another one to be addressed first — “What if there is nothing, no-thing, that’s that important?”

This Sunday, September 13…

a special eleven:eleven fall celebration

 Your favorite requested songs and stories,

 As we explore the question,

“What’s the Most Important Thing in Life?”

 with special music from

Chicago, the Wailin Jenneys, Paul Simon, Trad Gospel

 FEATURING MEMBERS OF THE UNT “ONE O’CLOCK LAB BAND”

With our own band, the eleven:eleven revolution!

See you Sunday!

Tom

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