“We all fail in life…we always die too soon, or too late.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)
A meditation on failure. A meditation on existence. A meditation on our existence. A meditation on pushing beyond the limits of our work, to reveal the truth of ourselves. A meditation on the City of Light.
Offered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg, SC on August 27, 2017.
A recording of the sermon may be heard here:
An excerpt of the transcript may be found here:
What this place represents,
what you have created here
and in which I join you
is a place trying so hard
to do what others literally—literally—believe cannot be done
that in the very failure to convince them
you witness to that for which
you are striving so hard:
a community of love, beyond belief.
And that is just the point:
It is not just a question of the work we accomplish in life,
but of the life our work creates in us.
Our work may finally be assessed as incomplete.
Some may one day call it unfinished, or a failure.
may it create in us
the very thing we so long
to achieve through all our labor.
Consider Sartre & de Beauvoir.
each in their own ways,
was incomplete, and easily critiqued,
full of flaws,
by many measures, failure.
And yet their pursuit of their work
created of their lives
for all of their flaws,
with perfect clarity,
and the commitment to matter in the world
and to each other.
We see in them what they tried so hard to write for others.
who endeavored the Summa,
a complete compendium of faith and reason,
but who was stopped short
by a vision
beyond all words and images,
something he could not describe
even after the thousands of pages he had written,
the end of all his work
that somehow communicates
what all his ideas and words and work
had striven to say,
as if his very failure fulfilled
what he had striven so long
a witness to a reality beyond human understanding.
And this is my hope for us, for the work we join in together here—
that we will attempt so much,
that we will risk so much,
that even in our failing,
all which we have striven to achieve
will be revealed in the way we live our lives.
We are certain to fail in a thousand ways,
to let one another down,
to misunderstand each other,
to offend where offense was not intended,
to come up short,
What we are attempting here
is too implausible
to all work out.
May we have the vision and the courage
the reason and the faith
to do it any way,
to try and to fail,
but to work, together, over and over,
in the search for what is really true
in our lives
that no external authority can finally condemn.
In our incompleteness,
in whatever finally stops us,
may the world see clearly
exactly that for which we strove
with such brilliance.