WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

The Folded Lie

By Maureen Killoran

A hand holds a paper airplane in an open window, the tops of buildings visible underneath.

All I have is a voice
to undo the folded lie.
—W. H. Auden

One of the fads that swept my school when I was in 4th grade was a simple type of origami we called “cootie catchers,” the purpose of which was to predict your fortune – 97% guaranteed! A series of banal choices (do you like chocolate or vanilla? two or twelve?) caused the folds of this intricate creation to shift, and tension mounted until, finally, the heart of the matter was revealed. “You will be happy forever!” “Expect a big surprise!” Or, ominously,”You will have 17 kids and die young.”

These days, “cootie catchers” have been commodified. For a small sum, you can purchase a template that will deepen your spirituality or help you win the favor of your latest crush. Some will purportedly help you perform random acts of kindness, and one even promises to be an ersatz Harry Potter sorting hat.

Back in the day, though, the “cootie catcher” was simply a cheap and easy game. We knew there was no truth in it which, by definition, made it a gentle but shared lie. So why was that, as we folded and chose our way through the layers, a quasi-magical power sometimes grabbed us? Even though we knew better, there was that almost-wish that maybe – maybe! – this time the game would yield a happy surprise.

Except . . . not. In this post-playground world, we’ve learned to our peril that the folded lies are serious, and their outcomes seldom bring happy surprise. We learn that lies have consequences. Life is not a no-fault game.

What if the poet is right, and our voices really are all we have? We have choices, of course, but only one path is morally acceptable, for we are the grownups, and life is neither a playground nor a game. The folded lies are real. With our voices, we can and will undo them.

Spirit of deep Hope and Love, I ache to live the faith I claim to believe. I ask for courage to be fully present in these chaotic days. I ask for wisdom, that my voice may be an agent of resistance and my words add strength for those whose pain has been so long denied. In the name of all that is Holy, this I pray. Amen.

About the Author

Maureen Killoran

Born in Canada, Rev. Maureen Killoran has, over the past 30 years, served UU congregations in Ohio, British Columbia, Oregon, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Maryland, Texas, and Florida.


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