Living the Questions: June-August 2015

Theme for June-August
Freedom: the practice of expanding the spirit

Questions for contemplation and conversation on your own,
around the dinner table, in your journal, with each other

Download 06-2015-questions


  • In what ways have you experienced freedom in your life?
  • In what ways have you experienced freedom in your life?
  • In what ways has your freedom been constrained?
  • How does the experience of freedom impact how you live?
  • What paths has spiritual or theological freedom led you on?
  • How has your own spirit, or your understanding of the “Spirit” or the Holy, been expanded by a free search for truth and meaning?



“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control. Stop aspiring to be anyone other than your own best self: for that does fall within your control.”



“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Nelson Mandela


“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds!”

Bob Marley


“We are resolved to protect individual freedom of belief.
The freedom for which we stand is
not freedom of belief as we please,
not freedom to evade responsibility,
but freedom to be honest in speech and action,
freedom to respect one’s own integrity of thought and feeling,
freedom to question, to investigate, to try,
to understand life and the universe in which life abounds,
freedom to search anywhere and everywhere to find the meaning of Being,
freedom to experiment with new ways of living that seem better than the old.”

Sophia Lyon Fahs, UU Religious Educator, 1876-1978



Psalm 126 (From Grey Hymnal, Readings section: #590)

When the Spirit struck us free we could scarcely believe it for very joy.
Were we free, were we wrapt in a dream of freedom
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with pure joy.
The oppressors were awestruck.
What marvels the Lord works for them!
Like a torrent in flood our people streamed out.
Locks, bars, gulags, ghettoes, cages, cuffs, a nightmare scattered.
We trod the long furrow – slaves, sowing in tears.
A lightning bolt loosed us.
We tread the long furrow half drunk with joy, staggering.
The golden sheaves in our arms.

 — Daniel Berrigan


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

 — Maya Angelou



I experience God as expanded consciousness. Life is ever-unfolding. Consciousness is ever-rising. We see that in the growing human awareness of those who are different from the majority. We see it in our increasing sensitivity to, and in the enhanced sense of our responsibility for, the life of our world. All of these things, I believe, are the result of a new awareness of what it means to be human.

In expanded consciousness, the barriers we erect and behind which we hide in our search for security actually serve to cut us off from the meaning of life. That is the great sin of organized religion. Organized religion seeks to turn us inward upon ourselves. It binds us into a world marked by enormous limitations. Organized religion always divides the world into warring camps. It separates the followers of ‘true religion’ from the followers of that which it judges to be false religion. It separates true believers from heretics, the clean from the unclean, the saved from the unsaved, the baptized from the unbaptized, and the circumcised from the uncircumcised. These markers, however, cannot be part of the God experienced as life, love, being and consciousness.

Whereas God’s qualities cannot be categorized, branded or judged by external standards, religious markers such as being saved or being baptized can; the latter are nothing more than the manifestations of the supernatural tribal deity who builds the power of one people by diminishing the power of another. It is only in the expansion of human life and the expansion of self-consciousness that we find the ability to cross barriers and to transcend boundaries. It is this expansion of life and consciousness that invites us into a new understanding of what it means to be human. Finally, it is this expansion of life and consciousness that links us, I believe, with eternity, with timelessness. It is this expansion of life and consciousness that I now think I can say links us with God. We have moved beyond religion, meaning that even God can no longer be a religious concept.

An Excerpt from Eternal Life: A New Vision Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell by John Shelby Spong


The Free Mind (From Grey Hymnal, Readings section: #592)

I call that mind free which masters the senses,
and which recognizes its own reality and greatness:
Which passes life , not in asking what it shall eat or drink,
but in hungering, thirsting, and seeking after righteousness.

I call that mind free which jealously guards its intellectual rights and powers,
which does not content itself with a passive or hereditary faith:
Which opens itself to light whencesoever it may come;
which receives new truth as an angel from heaven

I call that mind free which is not passively framed by outward circumstances,
and is not the creature of accidental impulse:
Which discovers everywhere the radiant signatures of the infinite spirit,
and in them finds help to its own spiritual enlargement.

I call that mind free which protects itself against the usurpations of society,
and which does not cower to human opinion:
Which refuses to be the slave or tool of the many or of the few,
and guards its empire over itself as nobler than the empire of the world.

I call that mind free which resists the bondage of habit,
which does not mechanically copy the past, nor live on its old virtues:
But which listens for new and higher monitions of conscience,
and rejoices to pour itself forth in fresh and higher exertions.

I call that mind free which sets not bounds to its love, which,
wherever they are seen, delights in virtue and sympathizes with suffering:
Which recognizes in all human beings the image of God and the rights of God’s children,
and offers itself up a willing sacrifice to the cause of humankind.

I call that mind free which has cast off all fear but that of wrongdoing,
and which no menace or peril can enthrall:
Which is calm in the midst of tumults, and possesses itself, though all else be lost.

William Ellery Channing