There have been times in my life where I’ve had to step back to fully take in the puzzling enormity of some action or decision I’ve taken. In those moments I’ve Instinctively reached out for some kind of comfort in the form of a “self-embrace” an autonomic hug, with my arms crisscrossing my belly, reaching around my back, as I wondered “what have I done?” These moments were sometimes good and other times bad, but usually somewhat ambiguous.
In the case of the scientist Robert Oppenheimer he ushered humanity into the nuclear age, by unleashing the power of the atom in the 1940s. Oppenheimer realized that life as anyone had experienced it before was forever changed. His generation slipped into an uncharted landscape with an array of terrifying and beneficial possibilities in it. Oppenheimer couched this realization in religious language of scripture, quoting lines from the Bhagavad Gita: “I have become death, destroyer of worlds”. One world order was dying while another world order was being born and Oppenheimer was left wondering “what have I done?”
When I was ordained to Unitarian Universalist Parish Ministry two years ago I had a similar realization. I crossed a threshold and entered an entirely new world as a religious leader. The ceremony, participants, speeches, and even the cake of that day communicated to me on a visceral level that life as I knew it would never be the same. In that moment I resisted the urge to give myself a autonomic hug, not wanting to be a spectacle at the spectacle of an ordination. But that moment is seared into my memory as a huge, joyous threshold event.
Whatever your threshold event is, whether it’s developing a device of unlimited destructive power, or developing a curative vaccine, entering into marriage, starting a new job, moving into the new home, becoming the parent or becoming a UU minister, I hope you allow yourself the grace of an autonomic hug, the hugs of loved ones. I also hope you are open to the grace that seeks to embrace us all on our journeys.