Karl Marx, Carl the Communist, Quakers, Convergence, Class and Care - (looking for the great leap forward)
Oh, where to begin ... maybe on a bench, next an old friend, Carl - a Trotskyist by his self description. It rained terribly this morning, and there were tornadoes in New York City, Brooklyn to be exact. We are breathing a hot wet soup which passes for air today.
When did it all begin? When we picked up rocks to smash bones of discarded lion kill, in our scavenger - pre flint knapping days, did some early hominid with ADHD find a better way to splinter bone, and some Alpha male make a law that it must be done this way, or suffer a crack on the head? Perhaps.
But, for as long as we have stories, we have been looking for that single answer, and each young zealous generation believes they have it in the new and improved and ever so simple single edged theory of...
And as the old folks said to Bernadette Devlin, before she was McAlisky, as she tells it... "Keep marching for your rights and there will be war." "Oh no old woman, oh no old man, it is a new time, a new world and we just have to show the error of their ways to those who oppress us and... " and soon it was war. Each generation believes in the new answer, even if the new answer is to embrace (converge on) an old system.
I'm glad to see, Liz Opp and Robin both speak of convergence in terms of fuzzy. Good start. But why speak of convergence at all? Was it Emerson who said, "The louder we say us, the louder we say them?" And yet, it is true, we need to draw some boundaries on any abstraction, and this abstraction of Quakerism is like oil on the water sometimes, or is it?
It seems less difficult to draw boundaries on something called a Society of Friends, than something called Quakers. As a society of friends, we seek unity, even definition in unity. Unity is a remarkable thing ... it presumes best intentions. I am sometimes disappointed that some Friends who are rather zealous about defining the boundaries of the abstraction of Quakerism, at times so strongly that they must say it twice, are not overly interested in granting others their best intentions. Friends who neglect to assume the best intentions of others, fortress their cliques, show little faith in those practices which bring us together as a diverse group, processes of clearness, of openness at business meetings ... respect for each other, and at the root is the notion that for me to be right, thee must be wrong ... the single answer to the world's many problems ... my way or the highway.
A few of us, in my Meeting, speak of how to get our meeting to go from a reactive state, where we can't even accomplish the simplest tasks together, to a proactive state where we pull together as a team, a society of friends. In an urban Meeting, in one of the most diverse cities on earth, we are faced with having to find that model of unity in the face of Babel. One friend suggests that the answer is found in acceptance that Jesus is God. My response that I will acknowledge Jesus as God, when the Friend acknowledges God is Jewish, a sort of Zen-light response is less than helpful (thee is welcome to turn the pun Zen-light anyway thee may - I do).
Part of the answer is a trusting silence, but what happens when we must speak as we seek? The question of who owns the 21st century is very like who owns our identity as Quakers. I believe we all own both, it takes nothing from me, to give thy place to thee. The more we empty the cup of our ego and invite God to fill it, the more we are the children of light. Some Friends will say to me, and have, but if we worship different Gods, what then? I suppose my response is to say, my God and thy God are God, thy name for God, and my name for God is ego, and a God who can't laugh at our attempts to sculpt the eternal and infinite into the image of our own ego, well ... just should not have invented irony.
Now, some Friends have, as we have in the past, asked that we examine class, as one of the many divides which creates diversity in our Meetings, and might well create division. Yes, there are class differences which like theology does divide us when we draw it around us as an armor -- working class and owning class alike. It becomes walls to fortress our schools, our social conscience and our testimonies from simplicity to peace. I admit a twinge of pride in great moments of class awareness, such as in the film Matwan, when the IWW organizer says, "There are two kinds of people in the world, those who work, those who don't ... we work, they don't!" But, how true is that. If we are not aware of the identity of our class and work for our class interests, who will? If we work only for the interest of our class, who are we? We can deny an ownership class their right to one thing or another, we can dig in until the great leap forward ... divide and fail ... or we can transcend, not our awareness of, but the walls of our identity. I think that is what it is to be Quaker ... to strive with the late Friend Harry Helmsley and the late Friend Barrington Dunbar to be a society of friends undivided by racialism, class, theology...
Where does this leave us -- the all inclusive us? My friend in Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland, Maz, just had her birthday a few days ago. I should give her a call. When my wife and I would pick at each other, in the first days of our long decades together, Maz would simply say, "be good to each other." Maz, thee has summed it all up.