Thanks to Rev. Scott Tayler for inspiring this reflection.
Ancestry is our theme this month, and together we will explore what it means to be a people of ancestry. American writer, Ralph Ellison, says, “Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.”
You may have some relatives whose legacy (and dysfunction) you are choosing to end. I know that’s true for me. But which of your relatives have you chosen as ancestors? They are the ones that had values you choose to carry on. They are the ones who blessed you.
People of ancestry look at their blessings and choose to see not only a gift, but also a responsibility. Simply put, ancestors pass on obligations. To be a people of ancestry means recognizing that something of value has been entrusted to you and that there is a long line of people behind you counting on you to pass it on.
And whether that expectation feels to you like a blessing or a burden, it most surely also reminds you that you are part of something larger. Ancestors don’t simply tell you that you are obligated; they tell you that you are obligated to something larger. And not just that you are obligated to it, but that it is dependent on you. Whether the story continues to be told is up to you! Whether the family tradition continues to be done is up to you!
Whether the native language continues to be taught to the children is up to you! Whether the family cycles of health are strengthened or the family cycles of dysfunction are stopped is up to you! Whether Unitarian Universalism lives on is up to you!
Ancestors plop these incomplete and intimidating endeavors in our laps and say, “We’ve done our part and taken it as far as we can. The next step of the journey is in your hands.” That, of course, means that our hands are connected. They handed the precious gift to us. We are asked to hand it on to those who follow. And they will hopefully continue the sacred chain.
And in the end, maybe it all boils down to that: seeing ourselves as part of a sacred chain. We are not small. Our lives are not insignificant or independent. Our choices are not without consequence to others. We are part of a story, not just a set of random happenings. Our choices connect the next link. Our choices pass on that which is precious and remind us we are preciously connected. This is what choosing to be a people of ancestry means. Let’s explore it this month!
Here are some things to ponder:
Have you found your favorite UU ancestor? Do you know whose shoulders you stand on? How have you decided whose legacy you want to help live on? For help see: http://uudb.org/
What happened to that tradition you so loved as a kid? Why did you let it go? Is there a creative way to bring it back? How does Thanksgiving need to change this year? What ritual or tradition needs brought back? What needs to go?
Seeds of Our Ancestors, Seeds of Life by Winona LaDuke – TED talk about ancestor relationships, sustainable development, renewable energy and food systems: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHNlel72eQc
The Descendants – http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/reviews/view/21868/the-descendants. Native islander Matt King (George Clooney) lives with his family in Hawaii. Their world shatters when a tragic accident leaves his wife in a coma. Not only must Matt struggle with the stipulation in his wife’s will that she be allowed to die with dignity, but he also faces pressure from relatives to sell their family’s enormous land trust.
Finding Your Roots – PBS Series – http://video.pbs.org/program/finding-your-roots/ Each episode of this series “journeys deep into the ancestry of a group of remarkable individuals … bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link.” The show “treks through layers of ancestral history, uncovers secrets and surprises … and shares life-altering discoveries.”
Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project by Spencer Wells
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey by Spencer Wells