Sunday Meeting - Joe Chuman: Tragedy and the Triumph of the Human Spirit

Sunday, December 10, 2017 - 11:00am
Ceremonial Hall - 4th floor

We all wear social masks. In public we always want to present our best selves. This is perfectly understandable and probably necessary for society to function. But peer beneath the surface and one encounters a very different picture of the human condition.

My nearly half-century as a Ethical leader has given me a privileged view into the realities that lie behind the personalities we present to the outer world. Few and fortunate are the families that go unbeset by great tragedy - children with severe mental illnesses, the struggle with chronic diseases, addictions of many types, criminality - not passing discomforts, but deep-rooted challenges that claim continual attention, and even serve to define one's life. Life for many, most, is not a bed of roses. "I believe in the tragic view of life," declared Ethical Culture's founder, Felix Adler, and I understand what he meant. Humanist that I am, I do not believe in a sunny view of the human condition. If warranted, then where do we find the greatness of the human spirit? What can we find in our fellow human beings that inspires? I believe that if their triumph there be in life, it come most of all not from prevailing over those conditions that we confront. After al,l we all enter the dark night in the end and nature will have the last word. Rather, the greatness of the human spirit, I believe, lies in the sheer persistence, in the doggedness, in the refusal to accede to those forces threatening to do us in. It lies in the unyielding commitment to seek something better and to affirm life no matter what life throws at us, no matter how great the challenges we are forced to endure.

Presider: Henryka Komanska