Opening Words from Sun. May 22 by Dan Overmann

Good morning, my name is Dan Overmann and I will have been a Member for 100 years. Yes, 100 years… In 2097. So, doing the math, that places me at 25 years this year.

My pronouns are he, and him.

Today’s topic is the core value: “I am free to choose what I believe.” It is one of my favorites, and in this community, it’s been my experience that not only am I free to choose I believe, but encouraged and applauded.

I’ll begin by asking a question… Why is it important that I have freedom choose my beliefs?

Of course I can only speak for myself, and I have two reasons:

  1. I am responsible for the consequences of wherever my beliefs lead me. Since I’m the accountable party, it’s important that I have the freedom to choose what they are.
  2. In my world, beliefs are connected to quality of life – quality – being measured by the amount of joy and meaning. And at the end of the day, that is ultimately the primary objective.

So a bit more about this connection.

  • Beliefs evolve into values.
  • I use values as a guidance system for making choices.
  • Choices define actions and behavior.
  • Actions and behavior will ultimately define quality of life.

As you might expect, choice is an important component, so it warrants additional focus.

So, I’d like to relate a story from a movie I encountered about 6 months ago. The title of the movie is Milton’s Secret. Spoiler alert: At the climax of the movie, Milton presents a speech and reveals the secret. Here’s what he had to say:

Hold up beaker

Imagine yourself to be this beaker,

And whatever you choose to pour into the beaker is who you are.

If you choose outrage and animosity about the past, resentment and anger about the present, or fear and anxiety about the future, there is a pretty good chance that you are going to miserable.

If instead you choose generosity and forgiveness, curiosity and appreciation, caring and kindness, then miracles can happen, not just for you, but for those around you as well. People can change and the immediate world around you as well.

More good news: the choices are always available to us so the results can be replicated… Again, again, and again.

Put beaker away here.

I noticed that in Milton’s speech the second set of words: Generosity, forgiveness, kindness, are terms used to engage with others and characterize how to treat others. I find that interesting because if I were to compose of list of characteristics the would elicit the best in others, those words would be on it.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Milton’s message is comparable to Felix Adler’s (paraphrased): “Act so as to elicit the best in others, and therefore in yourself.”

My translation: “Bring out the best in others, and it will not only bring out your best, but will create an environment which has the potential to enhance your quality of life as well as those around you.”

As a sidebar, I have an issue with Milton’s use of the term “miracles”. This is unsubstantiated hyperbole & should be tested. Regrettably, I’m out of time so I’ll have to save the experiment I created for a future presentation.

So I’ll close with a “take away”

And yes, yes, yes, it’s a shameless paraphrase of a popular credit card tv commercial. Are you ready?

So when you leave today ask yourself this question:

Hold up beaker here

What’s in my beaker?

Thank you

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.