Friday, October 27, 2006

The Accidental President

No, this post is not about the last two presidential elections. It's about how strange life is sometimes, and how the Tao "moves in mysterious ways."

This past August - barely two months ago - I was seriously considering leaving my congregation for greener pastures. Despite my deep involvement in the church over the last three years as a board member, covenant group facilitator, and RE teacher, I still felt like an outsider in the congregation. I had long-held reservations about Unitarian Universalism in general, and was experiencing a growing practical interest in Buddhism. Almost every Sunday I found myself asking "what am I DOING here?"

Things turned around for me in September, primarily due to the arrival of our wonderful Interim DRE Michele. Our former DRE resigned at the end of the 2004-2005 church year, and our belated and unsuccessful search for a settled DRE left the RE program completely in volunteer hands last year. Fortunately my dear friend Mary kept it going, and we had classes every Sunday and even began a new program of Social Justice Sundays.

What I didn't realize about last year was how stressed out I had become by the uncertainty of the future of our professional RE staff. When Michele arrived and we first met over lunch, it was like a breath of fresh air, a huge weight lifted from my shoulders, and the joy of meeting a kindred spirit. We have a lot of work to do, but now we have a very talented, devoted, and objective person to help us do it. Life is good for RE again.

Another watershed event for me occurred while attending a retreat for men and boys early this month. I was wandering around the dining hall one day after breakfast, noticing the familiar feeling of outsidership (common throughout my youth and military career) arise as I watched the other men eating and talking. Then I realized that it's OK to feel like an outsider! I decided that maybe that's my place in large groups - outside looking in - and that it's balanced by my feeling of comfort and belonging in smaller groups within each community. It didn't take long to extend this attitude to my congregation, and it furthered my ability to experience my frustrations and feeling of not belonging with a "gaze of blessing" rather than a "gaze of contempt."

Following this retreat, I decided it was time to step into my life in a fuller way - time to claim my power and give it back to my community. So I joined the leadership council for the retreat group and took a leadership role in our forming cohousing community.

The following week, the President of our congregation's Administrative Board decided to resign for personal reasons. I immediately thought "I could do that," and tried the idea on for size. At the next board meeting, I was elected Acting President after being "nominated" by two other board members. Their confidence, along with my new commitment to serve, seemed to point to this as what I'm meant to do at this stage of my life.

So here I am, an accidental outsider on the inside...what will come next?

War Games

As part of my new job, I've been part of a lot of discussions about networking simulation. For example, networking Harrier and Hornet simulators with command & control simulators, artillery simulators, Forward Air Control Simulators, etc., to provide a realistic mission simulation for everyone involved. It's a very good idea for improving training, saving money, and reducing risk.

So it occurs to me - why not extend this idea and include the "bad guys?" If we were to provide networked simulators to our enemies worldwide, then we could do the whole combat thing virtually, and really save a lot of money and lives. On all sides.

And with all the coordination required to set up this virtual combat, maybe we'd all realize that we have more in common than we thought, and there's no "them" - only "us" sharing this one small planet. Maybe we'd decide to ditch our attachment to conflict (real or virtual) and work together for the betterment of all the world.

A nice thought, but I'm not holding my breath.