Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Thank You Amanda and Ishmael


I'm still catching up on my reading... couldn't read for a long while. I had started a book given to me by my friend Amanda... for a variety of reasons, I expect... my having lived somewhere between the leaver and taker societies, to use Daniel Quinn's convention in that book, Ishmael, to describe the difference between hunter gatherer and farming societies... by ability to visit my friend Julia for hours in her jail cell, sitting with her as she played with, or showed me her child Peirpont... feeling a sense of personal outrage as people would shout at her, "Look at the monkey..." and I would reply, Julia is a ape, a higher primate like you and me.

I finally finished the book, the reflection towards the end that we are all in the prison of our culture, even Donald Trump can't escape the prison he builds for himself and others... I did try. I lived on the margins of life for most of mine. I am not sure, that I chose to do that... perhaps I found the margins because of rejection by the mainstream, but it was clear that I was not to be allowed into the company of takers.

These frontiers of the margins are now very hard pressed. I watch as my Hunter Gatherer friends in Canada slowly die within the process of being forced into the prison of Taker culture. It becomes increasingly lonely on those margins.

A fellow, who I think was likely a madman, approached me as I had coffee last first day. He was wearing a long black robe and had adorned himself with an eccentric collection of symbols.... he wished me a Sabbath Shalom, and I explained I was a Quaker, and after going back and forth between questions about the Amish and Shakers and whathaveyou, he asked where the meeting house was... and when meeting was... ah well...

During meeting I could not settle into silence, I was stuck in thought about my loneliness. I had fallen for the trap of the Taker culture. I followed love from living the hunter gatherer life of a busker on the west coast of Ireland, to return to the US, and try to bring that life here, not knowing it was not the trappings of the life that made the life. I built Irish boats, and busked, and became less and less a part of life in the States, I began to fight for the rights of those who lived in the margins next to me, Romany people, Indians, humans without homes... and so I went to law school and it became even more apparent that I had no place in the White Male Takers society... and I came out of law school a little more lonely, I'd strayed even farther from the society of the leavers, while not entering the life of the takers. There I was, thinking in meeting about living alone, eating alone, worshiping alone, forcing my self to play music at times, mostly no longer listening to music, because playing in bands, like the one I now am sitting in on, a band whose only purpose is a pay check and even the music be damned... I play alone in that band... caught in the space between my world of leavers and the world of takers. After a half hour, a figure who had been sitting in the middle of the meetinghouse, rose, and I took of my hat to hear the message, and to my real horror, it was the madman, and worse... he was walking over to me. I put a finger to my lips and shook my head, to let him know this was not a good time for a conversation. He leaned very close to me, over a bench, and whispered... "thank you."
For a moment... I was not alone.


At 9:42 AM, Blogger ash said...

I often wonder if I am in the wrong place. I feel lead to the fringes. I have always been a bit unnormal, and I consider this a blessing. I think of many lives I could end up living... I don't want to work nine to five and drive my car home to suburbia. That is not me.
I do not want to go to superficial church that would take wealthy collections for Tsunami victims but not offer hospitality to the beggar who come's knocking on the door at 1am.
I am not sure I can live among people who watch the news shows as if they only tell truth; who believe the tabloids over their own reason.

I watched a program about the Mountain Men in American history: Jim Bridger and the like. I remember studying this. Sometimes I wonder if I should move to the mountains. Sometimes I wonder if I should become a travelling hobo. Sometimes....

I think perhaps one day the call will be too strong.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Twyla said...

For just a moment, as I read this post, I felt a little less alone too. Sigh. This touches me. That I should read these words now, in this season of extreme solitude, somehow brings comfort. Thank you.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

That's beautiful Lor.

Isn't it strange how madmen seem to have a knack of touching us where others' could never go.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Larry said...

You are not alone, Lorcan, anymore than the Master was, and is. A Heavenly Host is gather around you, my friend and Friend.

At 4:47 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

I know you are right, especially about the heavenly hosts... funny thing though, most others don't know it, and when I begin to talk to them, when I am alone in a restaurant, the check comes before the first course and people change tables around me... just kidding, couldn't help it... I have humor impulse problems... as you might see if you have visited the Gray Avenger site ( I also have a plug my cartoons impulse problems... ) But seriously, Larry - ( no that is not the seriously folks usual start of the next joke... ) seriously - there is isolation and isolation... the difference between solitude and loneliness, and a lot has to do with choice, this is not the life I've chosen, and that makes it rather difficult to work through....

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Larry said...

I know well what you're driving at, Lor. About the most supportive thing anybody ever said to me was when I had abandoned the parish ministry to work as a P.O. for alcohol offenders.

I felt more of a minister than ever, but hardly anyone else seemed to have the vaguest idea I was still a minister.

Then a young reporter interviewed me and wrote an article that lives forever in my memory--at least one sentence:

"He came down out of the pulpit to help the lost."

Isn't that what it means to be Christ.

At 4:57 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

That is what it is to be Christ absolutly, Larry.


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