"We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another."
At times in my life, I’ve had to step back to fully take in the puzzling enormity of some action or decision I’ve taken. In those moments I’ve instinctively reached out for some kind of comfort in the form of a self-embrace, hugging myself with my arms crisscrossing my belly, reaching around my back, as I wondered “What have I done?” These moments were sometimes good and other times bad, but usually the implications were somewhat ambiguous.
Scientist Robert Oppenheimer ushered humanity into the nuclear age by unleashing the power of the atom in the 1940s. Oppenheimer realized that life as anyone had experienced it before was forever changed. His generation slipped into an uncharted landscape with an array of terrifying and beneficial possibilities in it. Oppenheimer couched this realization in religious language of scripture, quoting lines from the Bhagavad Gita: “I have become death, destroyer of worlds.” One world order was dying while another world order was being born — and Oppenheimer was left wondering, What have I done?
When I was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry two years ago I had a similar realization: I had crossed a threshold and entered an entirely new world as a religious leader. The ceremony, participants, speeches, and even the cake communicated to me on a visceral level that life as I knew it would never be the same. In that moment I resisted the urge to hug myself, not wanting to be a spectacle at the spectacle of an ordination. But that moment is seared into my memory as a huge, joyous threshold event.
Whatever your threshold event is, whether it’s developing a curative vaccine, entering into marriage, starting a new job, moving into a new home, becoming a parent, or becoming a UU minister, I hope you allow yourself the grace of a self-hug as well as the hugs of loved ones. May you be open to the grace that seeks to embrace us all on our journeys.
Source of our lives, here we are on the verge of an incredible change that we cannot fully comprehend. Help us to reach out and to reach in for strength, compassion, and wisdom as we navigate the uncertain roads ahead. Amen.