“And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?”
This question is the opening line of Raymond Carver’s “Late Fragment,” a poem that seems to reach out to me every few years. Earlier in 2016 I heard this line as the culminating “bonus” question in a commencement address at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I feel sure that this poem was somehow conveyed in Birdman, the Oscar-winning movie from two years ago. Perhaps inspired by these recent encounters, this poem jumped to the front of my mind when I began to think about TUUC’s October theme of healing.
The version of Raymond Carver’s life story that I carry around goes something like this: early struggles, artistic successes; failures related to alcoholism; healing and a maturing coherence.
The “even so” of Carver’s poem refers to navigating the challenges of life, such as those he experienced and those in the tumultuous history of the Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s last 30 years. The grand and mundane, unique and universal experiences of our individual lives and the life of our congregation reflect a truth that Linda pointed out in her sermon on October 16: we live in the world. Our precious lives are messy, rocked by shortcomings and disappointments, and in need of healing.
I’m becoming convinced that our congregation derives some great power as a community because we have experienced such tumult and have learned to heal ourselves and one another. As we encounter challenges, this healing is just part of what we do: we are a community of healing.
The answer in the second line of “Late Fragment” is a simple, confident, “I did.” I read this as a spot-on affirmation of life as it is lived, “even so.”
I dream that we can each affirm our lives in this way. I expect our community of healing to help make it so for each of us.
Stepping up to the level of our lives together at TUUC, I expect that our congregation will ride a succession of storms, we will heal ourselves and one another along the way, and we will grow to be the enduring, active, liberal religious community we envision for ourselves and for all of Pierce County.
Scott Redman, President, Board of Trustees