FREEDOM: The Practice of Living Out Loud

Theme for June/Summer 2019

The intention of the themed year is to help Unitarian Universalists build a robust spiritual and ethical vocabulary. The themes are points of departure for religious liberals seeking to think, speak and act theologically, prophetically and prayerfully. The themes reclaim religious language, casting old terms in a new key to deepen spiritual grounding and sharpen moral reasoning. More at: or sign up for a circle at

Download 2019Jun Freedom – living out loud.pdf


  • What is the difference between freedom and choice?
  • Can you name the most courageous way you’ve ever lived your life out loud?
  • Is there such a thing as too much freedom?
  • Can an individual’s moral responsibility to respect another individual’s freedoms create enough balance so that everyone can experience freedom?



“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” — Albert Camus

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
—Viktor Frankl

“Get up. Stand up. Speak up. Do something.” —Tarana Burke, #MeToo founder/activist

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” ― Audre Lorde

“I suspect that one could posit that poets who shatter how we engage the world through the rupture of language, for instance, are engaged in a political act.”
—Kwame Dawes, Ghanaian poet

“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



What Kind of Times Are These
There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread,
but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

—Adrienne Rich




Living Out Loud: Lizzo Interviews Janelle Monae


Lizzo: I think that there’s so much freedom with sexuality in the world right now. And you are a huge part of that wave. Can you tell me about that journey?

Janelle Monáe:It’s been a journey. For me, sexuality and sexual identity and fluidity is a journey. It’s not a destination. I’ve discovered so much about myself over the years as I’ve evolved and grown and spent time with myself and loved ones. That’s the exciting thing — always finding out new things about who you are. And that’s what I love about life. It takes us on journeys that not even we ourselves sometimes are prepared for. You just adapt to where you are and how you’ve evolved.

Lizzo: Do you have any words for those who are struggling with their sexuality or coming out? At any age, but especially for young people.

Don’t allow yourself to feel any pressure other than the pressure you put on you. And I think there’s so much power in not labeling yourself. That said, there’s also power in saying “This is how I identify,” and having community with the folks you identify with. Everyone is on a journey of self-discovery, and those of us who may not understand others’ journeys should be more empathetic and tolerant and supportive.

A big thing for me is just being patient with myself, and not allowing myself to make decisions based in fear, or a fear of people not understanding me. And it’s hard. You go through experiences where you feel fearful, and you end up being depressed, or having anxiety, and not taking care of you. But that fear should not get in the way of how you love or who you love.

To be young, queer, and black in America means that you can be misunderstood. You can be hated. It also means that you can be celebrated and loved. And I think there’s a lot at stake when you’re living out loud in that way.+


Everything in Zen

is very simple and direct. Still, most of us are convinced that the truth is only worth the effort if it is presented as a far distant and practically unattainable goal. “What is Zen?” a student once asked my master, Soji Enku. “The ground beneath your feet” was the answer.

There is nothing special or secret about Zen. It is found precisely in the most ordinary things of every day life. It is always present – “at this very moment!“ The entire mystery and wonder of Zen lies in drinking a glass of water or tying shoelaces. An old saying runs “Miraculous deeds and acts of wonder! I draw water and fetch kindling.“ The wonder of such things is only evident to those of us who experience the moment. That is why Zen tells us “seize the moment and be here now!“ In other words: “See everything just as it is, and do not cling to the patterns of your dualistic and limited points of view!”

Zen is living without fetters, living in freedom, and freedom itself. Once the chains of the small clinging ego are broken, our true self, ever-present, all-encompassing, and all-pervasive, shines forth in all its glory! – from Free Yourself of Everything: Radical Guidance in the Spirit of Zen and Christian Mysticism by Wolfgang Kopp


Freedom XIV – by Khalil Gibran

And an orator said, “Speak to us of Freedom.”
And he answered:
At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,
Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.
Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.
And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.
You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,
But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.
And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?
In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.
And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?
If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.
You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.
And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.
For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their won pride?
And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.
And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.
Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.
These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.
And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.  And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.




Freedom Begins in Your Heart – Giving Voice to the Spirit 

Freedom begins in your heart (4x)

Let my voice begin to sing
and speak from my heart (2x)

Let my feet begin to dance (2x)
And move with my voice


When the Spirit Says Do #1024 + Giving Voice to the Spirit version

You’ve got to DO when the spirit says do (2X)
When the spirit says DO you’ve got to do, O Lord
You’ve got to DO when the spirit says do

You’ve got to MOVE when the spirit says do (2X)
When the spirit says MOVE you’ve got to do, O Lord
You’ve got to MOVE when the spirit says do

You’ve got to SPEAK when the spirit says do (2X)
When the spirit says SPEAK you’ve got to do, O Lord
You’ve got to SPEAK when the spirit says do

You’ve got to MARCH when the spirit says do (2X)
When the spirit says MARCH you’ve got to do, O Lord
You’ve got to MARCH when the spirit says do

You’ve got to SING when the spirit says do (2X)
When the spirit says SING you’ve got to do, O Lord
You’ve got to SING when the spirit says do

This Land Is Your Land (Woodie Guthrie) – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings