I just arrived in Salt Lake City for the 2015 Parliament of World’s Religions. There is an expectation of at least 10,000 people from around the world converging on this very diverse city nestled in the Rocky Mountains. That’s a boat load of people speaking over 100 different languages, and sharing as many faith expressions!
After checking into my hotel and resting I wandered across the street to the convention center to pick up my registration packet. While the Parliament doesn’t officially start until tomorrow evening, everything is alive and buzzing with excitement. Pre-Conference activities are well underway. Brilliant minds and creative souls are already tucked away in multiple rooms engaged in the work of this year’s theme – Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity: Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice and Sustainability.
Groups of people are sitting in the registration area combing through the hundreds of pages of workshop and plenary session options. There is a hum of power tools coming from a Buddhist Temple still under construction. Tables in exhibit halls echo as they are unfolded and arranged. Traffic noise slowly builds as the evening grows dark and people make their way here to an event, that for many, is a pilgrimage – a hajj – and this Parliament a “mecca” of sorts.
So the big question is: “What would happen if people of faith worked with each other?” Well, I will have to let you know after the Parliament. But I have a general idea because as the Vice Chair for The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council I catch glimpses of what can happen. But the possibilities that are inherent in 10,000 people working with each other for a few days? I’m not sure I can imagine. And honestly I’m not sure I want to. Never mind the possibilities of what can happen AFTER the conference!
I probably could imagine, envision, claim, work for and try to see the possibilities, but it can easily get mind-boggling. So instead, I am focusing on the unruly air that is blowing through those already here, and those yet to arrive. It is the air of Spirit, Atman, God, Nature, Cosmos, Quantum World, or whatever name you call that vastness that we all seek to know and express. It is this unruly air that has ignited all these hearts, and frankly, I’d prefer to wait and see where the wind may blow.
Sitting here in my hotel room typing away, I can hear the wind outside, coming down from the Rockies. It’s a little eerie sounding, and also a little comforting. All I can do is listen to it and ride the adventure of it. I can’t predict what it will do. Wind, unlike earth, fire and water, can’t be seen, but it can be felt and heard. Air represents all that I cannot see: my soul, my heart, the spirit world. It is invisible, unpredictable, playful, soothing, destructive, inspiring and life giving.
Its effects are visible – the ripple upon the water, fallen leaves dancing in a circle, the torrents from a tornado, shaking windows from the gusting. I can see it in words like spirit, aspire and inspire, empowering words calling me to unseen new heights, a new vision, inviting me to see the visible effects of my own life on the lives of others.
This unpredictable air that is moving through and around us, reminds me that whatever is universal is also very personal. This vastness of mystery and of life that is so alive here, while not able to be contained, comes alive as we begin to be opened by it as it blows through us, in deeply personal ways – our intimate stories and connections. I think this wind, while sometimes a breeze, and at other times fiercely gusting, is the awakening of language.
If we can hear the wind, we can hear each other’s languages as our own. Only then can we imagine what could happen if we understood and reconciled the language of men and the language of women; the language of power and the language of love; the language of justice and the language of mercy; the language of Spirit and the language of humanity; the language of fire and the language of water; the language of the soul and the language of the body; the language of feelings and the language of knowledge; the language of diversity and the language of inclusion; the language of contemplation and the language of service; the language of mystery and the language of certainty.
My prayer this week is for all of us to listen, to hear that unruly air blowing through us and allow it to awaken us so that we may know our own personal language as a universal language. So that we might share the best of our religions, and not be reduced to the worst examples of our religions, as we see too often in the news. THEN we will know what “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” means today as well as for a sustainable world of tomorrow filled with compassion, peace and justice.
CLICK HERE for more information on the 2015 Parliament of World’s Religions