Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Is blogging worship?

Is online worship possible? I have seen links to "online meeting for worship" and it unnerves me.

a friend the other day said something about the flurry of activity in the quaker blogosphere and suggested that perhaps we needed to "settle into worship" - I can see why that proposal might seem rightly led, but I can't imagine it? What would it mean to "settle into worship" in virtual reality???

Isn't worship something more powerfully local, more physically intimate, simply bigger, and more real, than can be acheived in our "community" - or whatever it is???

I see blogging as an intellectual exchange. Like some Quakers I thoroughly enjoy jumping into the fray of a good, messy theological/political/cultural debate/discussion, but I don't think that just because I'm doing it with other Quakers that it's worship. I certainly can take some time to listen to spirit, but I can't enter worship sitting alone (or accompanied) in front of my computer.

Computers help me understand the old belief that cameras steal your soul. I don't actually think cameras or computers steal your sould, but they both do proport to present you, perhaps even to present you "whole" - when they do nothing of the sort.

Much of us is missing here, and that's okay, if we remember it (I think) and don't forget that it exists, in ourselves and the other flesh and blood people in our lives, because our "virtual reality" interactions start to seem whole to us.

what think you?

Quakerism for Quakerism's sake

A f/Friend just used this term in conversation with me, and it speaks to something I feel that I've been butting my head up against a lot lately.

I am not saying I haven't done it (whoa, have I done it!) but it freaks me out when, faced with a (moral/ethical) choice, we often ask, "is it quakerly?" or, in regretting our own actions, or more likely, chastising others, we say "that's not very quakerly!"

More and more I wonder, do I care? should I care? My aspiration in being a quaker has never been to be a good quaker, but to be a good person, to live up to the light granted me, to seek with fellow seekers and manifest goodness, gospel order, if you will.

If it turns out that that's ever in conflict with being a "good quaker" I won't even flinch (I like to think)

This has to do with the George-Fox-as-Icon thing. Some things that I have heard attributed to Fox resonate with me. They don't resonate less when I learn that Fox didn't actually say them, or mean what I thought he meant. The truth is there (theoretically) no matter who spoke it first, or loudest, or even if it hasn't been spoken yet.

This goes to the Christianity thing, too. I have asked Christians what they would do if Jesus came back and refuted what they find most precious in the gospels. The answers that I have gotten are mostly along the lines of "he wouldn't" - which might be quite true in their theology, but doesnt' get to my question (which, granted, is based on my complete ignorance of Spirit-as-necessarily-Jesus, so there we are)

But, what are we seeking? Is it eternal? Is it recognizable? If we find that something ephemeral (like a word, or a book, or a story, or an identity) was a stairstep and not the foundation, do we have the courage to step off of it?

Now, I have that "courage" cause I dont' have much invested in the stairstep. Admittedly, this might impede my progress up the stairs, so that I will never be faced with the decision about what to do at "the top" (=enlightenment?)

I am perhaps a version of the quintissencial Liberal Friend. As someone has accused "us" of recently, I have "evolved" to a place of looking to nothing - for guidance and structure - my spirit is free-floating in the ether. I am, after all, a child of the sixties ('68)

And it's the only thing that makes sense to me. The spirit the inspired Fox and Woolman and Jesus and Bean and Gandhi and MLK and Pennington and Jones and Fell, It's still here, it's the air that I breathe, as it was for them.

Of course it's worthwhile to test our experience of that spirit with those who have gone before, and with those who surround us now.

I am not simply a freewheeling, "I'll do what I darn well please" Quaker - are there really those? In seeking community don't we essentially seek to be accountable to someone(s)????

What do we mean when we ask, "is it quakerly?" I think we mean something that is worth asking

is it kind?

is it just?

is it rightly led?

does it answer that of God (whatever that means!) in myself the others involved?

But let's say what we mean, what do you mean?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ecological Footprint Quiz

The title is the link, I'm still not used to that. Just in case, here it is again:


My footprint is 16 acres, or 3.7 planets (if everyone on the planet lived like me, we would need almost 4 planets!) and actually, it's my impression that that's a bit low for a north american. Once my sweetie moves in with me, it will go down a lot. :)

Of course, these are somewhat random questions. I don't think that if you have 8 people in your house because you've borne 6 children, that should actually reduce your footprint, but it would on this test. Among numerous other things that would "hone" the test, but make it longer and more complicated.

I'm a vegetarian, and don't eat animal products (cheese, eggs) as much as some. I don't own a car, and generally get about by bike. I live in a duplex, in a 900 sf apartment. But there are so many things I don't, or even would go so far as to say I feel I can't do to "reduce my footprint". Be vegan, share my house with 3 people (there are two bedrooms, two couples really wouldn't be overload by world standards!), never use motorized transportation (I realize I think I still never go a whole week without riding in a car)

I have considered getting a woodstove, to help with heat, and I also have a rainbarell (which collects some of the runoff from my roof, so that I can water with it when it's dry) and just bought a front loading washing machine (for more than twice the price of a "normal" one) My house could really use insulating, I think, but the expense has put me off thus far.

I'd love to have a washing machine like Carl's, but alas, I share it with a tenant, who I think would be less than thrilled. (Plus I don't have a clue how to make one, and lack interns!)

But it's funny to me, that the american solution is almost always to spend money, "hey! this is what you could buy to take care of that!!!" - what to think about that?

There's another test here that is for people living in Ontario (though you can adjust your answers pretty easily) that has the interesting addition of the question "how much of the planet do you want to leave for the rest of the species?" - the most you can grant them is 40%, which doesnt' seem like much, but it makes your footprint even bigger!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"That of God" and idolizing dead quakers

So, there's lots of discussion of this "that of God" concept out there - mostly on Rich's "Brooklyn Quaker" (I am so not into doing links right now, but they're in my sidebar) and extensions on "Embracing Complexity" and "Plain in the City" (and probably elsewhere)

I'd like to say that I find it an interesting topic, but I have to say I mostly find it a depressing and despair-provoking topic. I feel as if I've just seen this little flurry of quakers getting moved to a sort of exstasy at the beauty and power of the idea that there is NOT that of God in everyone.


If quakers don't believe that there's that of God in everyone (and not just that "from God" to help them find - as I think I've seen suggested) then I'm not a quaker. Whoa, identity crisis.

I'd mentioned a bit ago that I'd probably be a "digger" if that had survived and become some tangible, living spiritual and social movement. Or maybe I am a digger in my heart, but quaker meeting is the best organized place I've found to be one. Not sure, not sure.

But I know lots of quakers who do believe there is that of god in everyone, not as a visitor, but as core to their being. So I'm not giving up yet.

And, in a highly anti-convergent (I guess) move, I have always found that the concept of "that of God" in everyone (and I do include nonhumans in that - another less than common perspective) speaks to my experience of the divine. That it is nearly inseperable from life, and from love, actually that it is inseperable, as it is one body, or being, or element, or any number of words for a thing there are no words for.

Apparently, the topic came up in the context of not torturing and killing people - do we as quakers oppose such things because there is that of God in those people? or for some other reason? I do for a number of reasons, I suppose. One being that there is that of God in me - and it says, no! don't hurt another reflection of the divine, yourself, life, potential goodness. It also says simply don't hurt - don't take that evil upon your own soul. It also doesnt' want to cause pain - regardless of whether it is to a "bit of god" or simply to someone who can feel it (but for me, those things are not so different)

Someone expressed concern, I think, with having so little faith in God that you think you would be killing it if you killed a person. It's not that - though you'd certianly be maiming it, at best (?) It's that when I am most in touch with God - when my breath falls into place with the universal - I stand in awe and love of every living thing,, perhaps of every being thing, and killing or intentional cruelty simply becomes not and option.

Does this mean I think reform is always possible? I have no idea. I don't have a lot of faith that anyone could have broken Hitler's heart (the easy example, forgive me!) and opened it to divine love of life and compassion. what's more important is that I certainly wouldn't want to risk more lives by simply professing a pollyannaish faith in such an outcome. Certainly we need to find a way to heal wounds, to fight infection and disease in our souls, rather than ignoring them in the name of quakerly love. i don't know the answer to this one, and as far as I know no one else does either, but we keep struggling, loving, trying and learning.


Secondly, it has come up a lot that that's not what George Fox meant. He wasn't saying anything about the inherent worth of humans, but was talking about evangelism (answer that of God in each person - perhaps God is like a beneficial parasite??)

I'm not all that sure that I care what George Fox meant. From the little I know (and I never have tried to wade through his journal, or really any of his writings) George Fox was very earnest, a visionary, a passionate spiritual seeker, and a bit of a loon. Clearly there was that of God in him, but there was that of lots of other stuff too, we don't have to bronze all of it and place it on our altars (oops! we don't have altars, we're quakers!) However it came into our quaker vernacular, I am most interested in "what canst thou say?" - and I don't exclude those who think Fox was right-on about this - but don't quote Fox like he's my authority, tell me why the words of Fox resonate for thee, and speak to thy truth today


Monday, July 17, 2006

"Convergent Friends" - Timothy's Post

There is some discussion all over the place of a post on One Quaker Take. I haven't seen, though, any attempt to respond to a question which I myself have been trying to figure out how to ask, so I'll just quote him.

I think it would be helpful if those who are working with this phrase would flesh it out in terms other than what sound to some of us like very tired Christian language. It would be helpful, to me, to hear how their vision, their leadings, comport with the writings of Fox, Penington and such--and with their Quaker theology of Revelation.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sometimes I think that I have a hard time talking about God because I'm immersed in it. A friend said today, it's "like a fish trying to describe water"

Sometimes when people talk about finding ways to connect with God I think "but you have to get so far away to do that" - sometimes getting far away is good for getting perspective on things. But I don't know. We never get away from ourselves. Isn't that how it is with God?

Good News! You're going to hell!

It's been on my mind more and more lately, I think hearing quakers talk about "sharing the good news" or really "gospel" in any context (it means good news, right?)

And in my experience, the "good news" that christians want to share with non-christians (or likely other christians who they don't think actually have it "right" quite yet) is that the news-eee is headed for the fiery furnace unless they do (believe) what the news-er says.

Now, this is, of course, from my news-ee perspective. I know the news-ers see things quite differently (primary, they believe that it's a fact that everyone is going to hell, so they don't see that as part of the "news" but of course, for many of us it comes as quite a shock. here we were thinking we'd just fertilize gardens, or maybe come back as a cow if we're lucky, but NOO, we were clearly mistaken, and that news is quite shocking, and dare I say, not good.)

So, I'm a little freaked that I hear quakers using this term more (and "gospel") not because I think that's what they really mean (I still haven't heard quakers talk much about hell - though that's come up for the first time as well recently! - scary stuff!)

What is the quaker "good news"??? Is it necessarily Christian?? If so, what does that mean?? We wouldn't even know the word "christ" had not it been a handy political tool for years of roman emporers. This causes a certain reluctance in me to center my faith around it.

But (what some call) Christ spirit, I think I know it. Not like a book, but like a tree in my yard, like the smell of my home.

I heard Temple Grandin on the radio the other day. She's autistic (I think) and talked about language and how some people don't think in abstractions, and therefore in words. She said she doens't have an abstract concept "bowl" - to know what you are talking about when you say it, she has to think of a certain bowl that she's seen - like the one she ate breakfast out of this morning.

I don't understand. Sometimes I think I could think almost entirely in abstractions, and have been "caught" by frustrated friends who want me to actually respond to something that's actually happening, rather than to theorize about such a situation.

I can't tell whether Christ and the word "christ" are the same thing or its inverse. Christ spirit seems quite abstract to me - no form, except when it's tangible, immediate.

But why is that Christ, and not just the experience it is??? What's more, why does it matter that it's Christ??? what does the word mean??? that it's true? that it's good and not bad? why would connecting it to a 2,000 year old story mean that??

I think perhaps my brain just doens't work that way, I have spiritual autism, or most other people do :)

Back to the gospel. I do believe that there is "good news" out there. Perhaps that the kingdom of God is at hand, that there is no waiting to live as if justice and love reigned.

But most often I hear the "good news" as something negative, perhaps not always "you're going to hell, unless" but usually some "tamer" version "you can join my club, but beware if you refuse.....", "you are outside my circle of concern, unless", "I hereby declare you uninteresting/blind/spiritually bereft/morally bankrupt, unless you......"

I have met a few christians who preached the good news effectively, but they never ever not once said a thing about what I should do, or what I was missing out on. One of them never said thing one about christianity period. she was a nun who volunteered at the co-op that I worked at. She just radiated love. Mostly we cut and wrapped cheese, and talked about politics, or preschool children, together, but if anyone might have ever "converted" me, it might have been her. Another is a friend who speaks of her relationship with christ frequently, but not aggressively, and again, simply radiates it. She "converted" her husband from a "Rush Limbaugh dittohead" (his words) to a man who could march proudly with the lesbians in a pro choice rally. And she convinced me that God loves everyone passionately, for real. Mostly by telling me how much he loved her ex husband (whom she still hates) but more by simply radiating that love.

I don't think, actually, that she thought I was missing out on a thing. Her God's love is so powerful that there's no way I could miss out on it, even if I tried really really really hard!!!! I suppose that there's something about being blind to it, an "open thine eyes and see' version of the "good news" - but that seems so plain, We're swimming in it, why insist that it's hidden in a very old book when it's all around us, and filling us up???

a puzzlement

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Greetings from FGC Gathering

I don't have a workshop anymore, so I have this lovely time of access to the computers (of which there are four, often in high demand every other moment of the day)

I have discovered that workshops, as currently enacted, don't really work for me. I'm not sure what to do about this, as I do really like getting to know a smaller group of people, and, well, learning about something I'm interested in.

what doesn't work for me is perhaps mostly the similarity (usually/often) to a college class (perhaps a seminar). I wasnt' a huge fan of college, and I'm pretty glad to be done with it. I wonder, in my frustration about the extent to which academia is intertwined with quaker culture - could you even be a liberal quaker if you, say, couldn't read? (or even didn't, much?) It seems like you SHOULD be able to, if it's about God, certainly the illiterate have their measures of light, no greater or lesser, on average, than college professors and lawyers and authors. But still, I can't quite picture it.

In any case, I'm thinking about whether some alternate form of workshop would "work" for me, and what's more, would the same form work better for some other people? and what's more, if both those things are affirmatives, is it up to me to create such a thing (or space for it) for next year's gathering??

I fantasize of a workshop held completely outside (there is one now) with some activites - like biking or swimming (my favorite things, and best spiritual practices, often) and extensive worship sharing (and maybe "threshing") I don't consider myself an expert on anything, and feel called to something that isnt' so much about expertise, but about what everyone brings. I think my greatest interest lies in really developing quaker environmental witness. which exists, but remains smallish and sidelines-y (in my opinion)

I'm not really (okay, not at ALL) the sort of person who leads workshops. I'm not organized, and I'm historically often cripplingly shy, and I lack "clerking" skills (I am working with middle schoolers and have actually been chided by a few of them for my lack of strictness and direction with them!)

I'm also not generally a person who takes on big projects alone, but I'm not at all sure that I can find someone who would be interested on working on such a thing with me. (I guess that's one reason I'm putting this out here)


what to do?


Monday, July 03, 2006

When I say "God".....

I don't think I mean what most people mean, I don't even know if I mean God.

Hello from Gathering! I am giving my voice a rest from my shape note singing workshop this morning. There's free internet access in the student center, which is quite popular and quite handy! (though perhaps not terribly simple)

Anyways, I just commented on Rich's blog with an extensive use of "when Jesus asks us to..." and "if you hear Jesus...." and am realizing that I may sound severely confused to many people.

Having been pretty sensitive on the issue of Jesus and quakerism (I acknoweldge and honor that it has its roots in Christianity, but I also feel that it's important that some Friends have moved on to something else - that is not exclusively christian, that is broader) I feel a bit strange talking about "what Jesus wants" or anything of the sort.

I do not believe that Jesus was super-human in any way.

I do not believe that God "created" the world, universe, life, etc.

I do not believe, actually, that there is a personified energy that "wants" us to do anything - be it Jesus or God or Allah or Brahman or Pele, or..... I could go on an on (especially if I had some sort of religious encyclopedia)

I believe that christianity owes its longevity not so much to any surpreme lock that it has on the truth, but mostly to its usefulness to various political rulers throughout history. I don't actually KNOW if it had the "staying power" to still exist if there had been no Constantin (I'm blanking, was that his name?), if there had never been a catholic church, but I think at the very least it would look RADICALLY different, even to quakers. We aspire to "primitive christianity" - but it's a long game of whisper-down-the-lane (or telephone, or whatever whispers.... that game, you know?) and with a LOT of intentional interference by enemies of what I would suppose to be the "true" message and value system of early christians.

So, with that in mind, I do experience a something - I mean, I'm a quaker, there's something that I wait upon in meeting for worship, there's something that helps me feel whether something is "rightly led" - much of our quaker language resonates with me, but the "God" part is sort of a stand-in for mystery, for something I (we?) don't have the "right" word (or understanding) for yet. ("yet" because it is something that we reach for, hope to move towards, while knowing that there will never be a time when we say now we are done - we no longer see "through a glass darkly".

So, for me, when I say that Jesus wants me to reuse my coffee cup (as I did on Rich's blog) I dont' really mean that the risen Jesus even exists let alone that he's sitting around worrying about what I drink out of. In fact I often make such silly-sounding statements both because they speak to a certain truth, and also because I assume that no one would think that I really mean exactly that .

What I do mean, of course (?) is that that is the course of action that is, as far as I can discern right now, the "best". I do not know if what helps me to know this is study of environmental issues, a simple adherence to my own integrity, compassion for the world around me, some sort of pure energy (unobstructed and unsullied) that I can tap into occasionally, or actually the voice of Jesus (and I simply don't recognize that it's the same guy)

But what's more, actually, is that I don't care too terribly much. There is something beautiful in meeting for worship, and in what happens when we manage to really live into quaker testimonies, and it may be the God of the Bible, it may be Allah of the Koran, it may be Brahman, it may be life force, it may simply be the joy of community for me, a member of a social species.

I find I can talk about "Jesus" pretty easily now - I'm not angry at him anymore, and I'm not afraid of him (I used to worry that fundamentalist christianity would eat my brain if I let my guard down for even a moment!) and because often I really feel like I know what people are talking about (at least some quakers) when they speak of their life with Christ. Not all of it, but some. It's a bit, I suppose, like travelling to another country and learning their words for things, and using them, to make communication easier, even if you have your own words too, or even if you don't.