Leftovers

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Sermon #17 (3rd April 2016 at Essex Church / Kensington Unitarians) 

‘In making a life, we’re all cooking with leftovers from childhood… The longer we’re at it, the more leftovers there are… [Each day] you open the door, and you are faced with the question, “What can I make of it?”’ (so said the Unitarian Universalist minister Gordon McKeeman in the reading we heard earlier: http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/adults/life/workshop7/159342.shtml)

In all of our lives, by the time we are old enough to start shaping our own destiny in any significant way, all sorts of external influences will already have acted upon us, shaping our sense of what’s possible, beginning to form our outlook, our identity, setting down those deeply-rooted habits of thought and behaviour which sometimes serve us well… and sometimes not so well.

Many things which we never had a part in choosing have a huge impact – for good or ill – on the way we have turned out: At the most basic level, the random shuffle of genetic inheritance deals us a certain hand, a collection of physical attributes and dispositions. Then, the virtues, vices, and peculiar quirks we picked up from our families and caregivers in early life will, to some degree, influence the way we operate later on (not to mention the effect of any stories they might have told us about ourselves while we grew up – stories we might still be carrying with us).

And the times we were born into – the political climate and prevailing social attitudes that surrounded us in our formative years (and the environment in which we find ourselves now) – these will have affected not just our opinions and world-view but also our life opportunities. We may have experienced this influence in a positive way or a negative way – at times each of us may have benefitted from the prevailing systems of privilege – at times we may have found ourselves being discriminated against and disadvantaged; We may at times have been swept along with the majority view and conformed with it – or we may have reacted against it and defined ourselves in opposition to the masses. Either way the larger political and social tides will have played a part in shaping who we are (like it or not).

So, to some extent, it might be said that we are conditioned by our family and society, while we are still very young, before we have any conscious say in the matter whatsoever. These early experiences and processes store up plenty of leftovers for us which we might well spend the rest of our lives trying to work with.

On top of this, as time goes b