(Delivered at UUSF on February 18, 2018. Listen to the audio here.)
I am such a bad hippie. I don't even have a good excuse! My parents were perfectly good hippies. Both of them moved away from their families to head to the Oregon countryside. The house I grew up in had a creek in the backyard. It was the perfect place to revere nature and think about a simple life. But no, none of that for me. I couldn't wait to get away.
And I don't mean like a nature getaway. I had enough of that since my parents took me camping every year. We went on hikes, swam in rivers, and stared out across desert expanses. You haven't experienced the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part until you've ran screaming away from a rattlesnake, extended your trip because someone got stung by a scorpion and needed impromptu medical care, and got eaten up by mosquitos all in one week. Ugh.
But even though I'm bad at being a hippie, it's not for lack of trying! I'm vegetarian. I'm one of those people who always keeps their house cold in the winter because I would feel guilty turning on the heat rather than just bundling up. And in my small protest against consumerism, I always try to shop second hand.
I think my problem, the reason I'm such a bad hippie, is that I can't just be. That I don't take satisfaction from being a part of nature. I need everything to be structured and planned out and action oriented. Even religion. Compare that to my dad. I think of him as taking after Thoreau -- profoundly spiritual, but not a huge fan of organized religion. I need that organization because organizing is how I put my faith into action.
My faith is in people, and that's why I became UU. I'd rather be marching through the streets for justice than hiking in the wilderness. And instead of living in the country, I'd rather spend time with a close community -- especially if that community welcomes someone with beliefs as weird as mine. When we work together, we can move mountains. Or, if it suits your fancy, we can hike mountains.
We don't have to enjoy the same things or believe the same things to be part of a community together, especially in a faith like ours that strives for diversity. There is room in the same house of worship for people like Thoreau as well as for a bad hippie like me. After all, a community isn't defined by what separates us, but rather by what brings us together. It's okay for some people to find beauty in a sunset and for others to find beauty in a story of compassion. It takes all kinds to change the world.
I, like many people here, have complicated relationships with my family and with faith. But while we might not accept everything that those communities offer, they're still a part of who we are. Even if I don't get away from the city much, the lessons I learned on those camping trips and the appreciation for the simplicity I grew up with are a part of me still. I might spend most of my time behind a computer, but sometimes I still find myself standing in the sun, looking at a tree that's blowing in the wind.