This is the last official principle in the Unitarian Universalist Association. There is an 8th principle being discussed but for the purposes of this series I am going to keep it to the official 7 for the time being.
“Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”
Of all the principles this is actually the easiest for me. My parents were crucial into my understanding that there was a world outside myself both from an ecological and humanitarian stand point. If it wasn’t for the opportunities my parents provided me throughout my childhood I may only know about my small suburban Philadelphia environment.
Growing up with two parents who were middle school teachers was definitely a difficult thing since they always seemed to be “teaching” us but now with the wisdom of years I can look back on it and see that it is really their fault that this principle the easiest for me to follow. Because they were teachers, they also had summers off and it made taking long family vacations easy. There weren’t really any schedules to work around, any time between mid-June and the end August were fair game for vacations and my parents certainly planned some phenomenal ones. My dad hated flying (like BA Baracus from A Team level hatred of flying) but didn’t mind driving. The first few summers of my remembrance we spent the trip sleeping in tents and then around middle school my parents upgraded to a pop up trailer eventually following that all the way up to a 5th wheel (we call this the evolution of camping from roughing it to your own personal hotel room). There were other trips but I mostly remember camping as a family on some long road trip. There was the summer we spent three or four weeks up in New England, there was the terrible mosquito hell of Chesapeake, VA; nights where I looked up and thought the stars were touching the ground which was awe inspiring for a suburban kid like me.
There was the trip where my brother and I tried to save the frogs in our tent one particularly rainy night, there was the old cloister where I suddenly realized either my family was really tall (Dad was 6’3″) or historical Americans were really short because we had to keep ducking to go through doorways. There was the birth of “there might be someone famous buried there” since my mother bought the AAA guidebooks and one of the old churches had some historical figure buried in its graveyard (I don’t remember who and I don’t know if we ever found the grave). There were trips to Fort McHenry, trips to bang on rocks that rang like bells, there was a farm that had a windmill that could be picked up and rotated to catch more wind, time in Amish country seeing the rolling fields, and so much more.
These were the trips where I really started to see that there was a world outside myself and my family. I didn’t necessarily learn everything, I wasn’t that good at reading the signs when we went places (that was my brother’s job, he has always been a lot calmer and more studious than I am) but I still absorbed that my life was not the same as everyone’s life. Not only did I learn about other times and ways of life I also got to see more of the world and all the wonderful pieces that go into making it.
We saw waterfalls, we went whale watching, I felt the breeze on my face and saw wildflowers blowing in the wind. While I may have been great at playing the teen (or pre-teen) angst card during these trips they are truly memories that have imprinted themselves on me, even though I can’t remember all the details. It gave me a sense that I am not a lone actor on a stage but part of a much bigger production both from an ecological and historical sense.
I remember my dad having a CB in the van and we were always called “Tan Van” when talking with truck drivers; it’s these trips where we were Tan Van and we didn’t know a soul where my world grew beyond my neighborhood. I know that I am lucky to have had parents who were both willing and able to give me these experiences on my summer break and it makes it all that more important for me to try and give experiences like this to the Munchkin. As I near the end of my third decade I can truly appreciate the life that has been given to me by those who came before and hope I can do it justice for those who come after.
That growth has allowed me to see the interdependent web not just because I’ve studied it academically but I’ve also seen first hand that there is no “us” and “them” we are all parts of the same world and it’s our job to remember we are a thread in the tapestry of life and nature.