All that you touch.
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
is Change.
—Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

Our March theme is transformation. The UUA Article 2 Bylaw amendment proposal names transformation, grounded in love, as a core UU value. I suspect the idea was inspired partly by Butler, and possibly also by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th-century Unitarian “sage of Concord.” Emerson wrote: “nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. . . . People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”

I suspect Butler and Emerson are right, but I struggle with the idea that transformation is a core value. I can think of lots of changes that unsettle me, including the increasing influence of artificial intelligence systems in our lives. Is there any hope for me? In their sermon on February 25, CB Beal touched on the way computerized algorithms manipulate our thinking and control what we see, hear, and scroll through. Then there are systems like ChatBot. Do they threaten our ability to think and to write? Can you tell the difference between an essay written by a human and one produced by a bot?

I am unsettled by these changes, and I tend to resist them by refusing to learn or to adapt. Recently I resolved to resist my resistance. I signed on to ChatGPT 3.5 and asked the bot for a short reflection on ambivalence about AI, written for an educated, progressive audience. I then asked for a more humorous response, and after that included the quote from Emerson with my request.

Finally I asked it what Emerson would have thought about systems like itself. No one could suspect his essays of being written by a machine. I’m a little less worried now about ChatBot, and intrigued to explore it further. You can read my experiment here.

March is a month for change—even transformation—as spring arrives. I invite you to embrace it, and maybe to let the “energizing spirit” move you to explore a change you have been resisting. And I invite you to have faith that there is hope for us all, no matter what Emerson once wrote.

Ever grateful to be your minister,

Janets signature