Opening Words from Sun. October 24 by Donna Kniest

Good Morning.

On July 17th, 2017 (5 years ago), I was walking through the main branch of the downtown library. I looked up and noticed words inscribed high above me. I was overwhelmed by what they said. I kept staring at the ceiling-reading them over and over. So, I took a photo with my iPhone (that’s how I recall the exact date as I know some of you have been wondering how I knew that).

And just as an aside, I have been a collector of quotations since I was old enough to read. It is the only thing I collect; I have collected them all my life, they are on scraps of paper, napkins whatever, and I have a lot. The words by Anne C. Lynch read:

“Speak low, tread softly through these halls
Here genius lives enshrined
Here in silent majesty
The monarchs of the mind. Wow!!!!!

Anne C Lynch

Did any of you ever have a moment like this? A moment you felt something so powerful it was hard to put into words? I have these moments – and I LOVE them — even though they’re often very fleeting. So, I am sharing this experience about the downtown library with you because on September 19th – 5 weeks ago to this day – I had this same powerful and overwhelming feeling – sitting right out there – during the moment of mindful meditation. It was like peace, awe, connection, a sense of home. On reflection, I think what brought it on was just being in this beautiful space again. Because our Society was closed for 545 days, I was keenly aware of the change – of “being here”.

So this moment led me to think further about “changes” in our lives. The pandemic has turned our lives upside down. It has affected our work environment, our social lives, our educational system, our medical system, our political environment, almost everything we do. I often ponder – as there has been a lot of negativity : “How is this change good?” This reminds me of another quote: “Even the birds sing after the storm.” During this time many of us zoomed in on Sunday mornings. The amazing advances in technology have helped us stay connected. This change is good. When I first began zooming Sunday mornings, I tried to be positive: well there are advantages to this. I don’t have to comb my hair, dress up, drive to Ethical using gas that’s bad for the environment. I can enjoy coffee and biscuits. If I’m not really into the mindful meditation, I can sort through my desk. Multi-task. Efficient. Good. But 5 weeks ago when I had that “aaah ha “ moment, I realized how important this space is and a couple thoughts came to me.

  1. What if I wanted to see the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls? Which would be better? A U-Tube Video —— OR A ROAD TRIP?
  2. And what If I want to experience what the Ethical Society is about, which is better? Altar or attending here in this space? Now I know that there are some members who are immune-compromised and for good reasons are unable to come in person. But I remember what our recent speaker Jim Reeves (who spoke 2 weeks ago) said about proximity. He said social media is great for teaching students around the world, but it divides us. It limits reciprocity and connection between people. His example was: “What happens when eyes meet, we smile, and say ‘hi?’ “ Yes, people smile back and respond “hi”. I can even see you smiling behind your mask when you wave to one another after platform. So I am looking forward to seeing more and more familiar faces here in the upcoming Sundays.

Yes, change is inevitable in our lives and here at the Society. I was also reflecting on the many changes and leaders I have seen come and go. I could never have envisioned how much change there could be from the very erudite Jeff Hornback in 1976 to James Croft who delights us with tales of super heroes and Star Trek. Change can be good or difficult, but we can’t avoid it. We have to deal with it. So, I continue to try and be positive with changes that come my way.

I will leave you with this quote by Martin Luther King about change, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. “

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.