Parson to Person: “A ‘Yes, Maybe’ Kind of Person” Jan. 29, 2021

The late David Rankin (the former minister at the UU church in San Francisco) once gave a sermon on the poet Robert Frost. At the end of the service, as Rev. Rankin was shaking hands with people as they left, a woman in line said to him:

“Congratulations. You read his poetry very well.”

“Thank you,” he said.

“Of course, he was not always a happy man,” said the woman. “His life was a struggle. Hope was hard won. Even in the end, if he affirmed anything at all, it was a ‘yes, maybe.'”

Rev. Rankin then said, “You seem to know a lot about him.”

And the woman answered, “Not everything. But I am his daughter.”

After meeting this woman, Rev. Rankin had this to say about the poet: “If you are a ‘yes’ kind of person, you may not understand Robert Frost. He doesn’t speak well to optimistic people. And if you’re a ‘no’ kind of person, you won’t understand him either, because he doesn’t speak well to cynical or hopeless people. But if you are on the edge, a ‘yes, maybe’ type of person–wrestling with the inner demons…clinging with your fingernails to a dim hope and a fragile faith–then you will understand Robert Frost.”

A “yes, maybe” kind of poet. I kind of like that. Not overly optimistic; but not cynical or despairing. Just: Yes…maybe.

When I look at the world around me–especially at this time in our nation’s history, when we have seen an insurrection in our Capitol, a mishandled COVID epidemic, and 4 years of lies–I find “yes, maybe” a somewhat comforting thought. I don’t want to throw up my hands in despair. But I also don’t want to blithely affirm, “Things are fine, democracy is safe, everything will be better now.”

This is not a time for hopelessness or overconfidence. Nor is it a time for apathy. It is a time to look at our UU principles–especially the fifth one: We covenant to affirm and promote “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process in our congregation(s) and in society at large.”

Democracy is still fragile. Lies are still being told. It is still important to vote (including in the primary on Feb. 16th) and make our views and values known. I’m just glad to be part of a community like Unitarian Church North, which comforts me when I’m afflicted, and afflicts me when I’m comfortable. I know I cannot stop and rest right now. But I also know I am not alone. The two together keep me going. Just like…

peace and unrest,

tony