Yesterday was indeed an extraordinary one. It started with an extremely successful talk to a receptive audience about a person some of them had known and the others were genuinely interested in. Verda Horne was central to my talk to the Unitarian, and they were able, in the answer section, to enlighten me with information I hadn't included, such as her work in establishing fellowships along the Gulf Coast, including the now Katrina-torn towns of Gulfport and Biloxi. They told me of her extensive work with environmentalists in the state and across the South. They even mentioned the work of her gentle, retiring husband Rix, who was well-known among landscape architects. Some, my sister told me, were moved to tears by my talk about how much Verda had meant to me, and how very much she had done to change lives in her brief time on earth.
A comment to my post yesterday asked what could possibly have motivated her, having been raised by strict Mormons, to become a proselytizing Unitarian? I immediately thought of M. Scott Peck's book The Road Less Traveled, and looked up this passage in the chapter called "The Religion of Science" "...the learning of something new requires a giving up of the old self and a death of outworn knowledge. To develop a broader vision we must be able to forsake, to kill, our narrower vision. In the short run it is more comfortable not to do this -- to stay where we are, to keep using the microcosmic map, to avoid suffering the death of cherished notions. The road of spiritual growth, however, lies in the opposite direction. We begin by distrusting what we already believe, by actively seeking the threatening and unfamiliar, by deliberately challenging the validity of what we have previously been taught and hold dear. The path to holiness lies through questioning everything.
"In a very real sense, we begin with science. We begin by replacing the religion of our parents with the religion of science. We must rebel against and reject the religion of our parents, for inevitably their world view will be narrower than that of which we are capable if we take full advantage of our personal experience, including our adult experience and the experience of an additional generations of human history. There is no such thing as a good hand-me-down religion. To be vital, to be the best of which we are capable, our religion must be a wholly personal one, forged entirely through the fire of our own questioning and doubting in the crucible of our own experience of reality."
I once gave a copy of that book to a dear man, and very devout and spiritual practicing Baptist, who came from a long line of practicing Baptists. He was quite interested in the book until it came to that point, but when he read that he could go no further. However, there is little doubt in my mind that Verda Horne would have approved of Scott Peck's words about religion and science. I think it gives a fair assessment of what probably took place in her spiritual development.
Yesterday held more than the morning talk. Early in the evening a new project was launched at my house, a very exciting presentation that involves the work of Gertrude Stein, whom I mentioned in a previous post. You'll hear details of the project as the time grows nearer.
Just think for now about the questioning, doubting and tempering of self and how that figures into our own personal development. Would such wipe out all religions from the face of the earth? I don't think so. Maybe we'd just all become Unitarians.