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.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Peaceful and Peaceable Goodbye

He was found on a Park Bench

War happens when two righteously angry people go at each other. I choose not to do that. It is likely that this blog ends here with this observation and prayer, please stop fighting, each one of you, one at a time.

Dearly with love


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

There is a danger in responcibility without authority

For some reason, perhaps our fear of hierarchy, we as a meeting became authority adverse. Nature always fills a vacuum, so in reaction to our Meetings lack of proper application of authority, individuals have sought to put authority in positions - Trustees, Clerks - School Committees ... everything other than where Fox and the Children of Light sought authority, God's instructions to a gathered Meeting.

Some Friends say that I am over fixated on process. However, I have learned, taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's, that responsibility without authority is dangerous. Now, we as a Meeting may decide that we no longer fix our authority in God, or that God no longer speaks to a gathered Meeting, in these times, and that these times are defined by our culture, not our faith ... and give over authority. I, for one, believe in our faith, and trust in God, and so, I hope and pray we return to the application of our process.

When the school acts, under the color of our name, and is not guided by the authority of our traditional process -- we are in danger of the statements of the school's practices defining us to the world as a religious community. The question, "who are these Children of Light?" would then be answered by our schools application process, by many things, about which some Friends feel a lack of unity. Those Friends feel we need to be gently guided towards our decisions by our testimonies as Friends.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

When God breaths out, Quakers breath in.

When someone asks me what is my faith, as a member of the Religious Society of Friends, how do we worship and what do we believe, I generally say, that being a Friend is to empty the cup of one's ego, and invite God to fill that cup.

Harold Bloom wrote that in ancient Hebraic explanations of creation, God breathed in, Zim, and then breathed out all that is, Zum. I have been thinking, a lot of late, why does our faith community work, and when does it not work. It works when we understand, that in breathing in, God took stock of God, a reflective moment, not unlike the process Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr. wrote of in the Letter from the Birmingham Jail. God goes into God's self, as Dr. King said we take stock of self in the beginning of a movement for social change. We look inside. Zim. Then, Dr. King explains, we act - Zum. Then we negotiate: (listen) Zim... (speak) Zum.

In the Gospel of Thomas, I am often fond of recalling, Yeshua is asked how one knows the Children of Light? He answers, "By movement and Rest." Again he is restating the old understanding of God, Zum - movement, Zim - rest. Before the proactive moment of creation, is the reflective moment of taking stock, becoming true self.

George Fox said of us, that we go joyfully through the world, greeting that of God in all we meet. This is a remarkable observation, as to meet God in another, one has to put ego in one's self aside.

So, in a practical way, what does this mean in how we live our lives as Friends together, and do our business? How do we seek unity in our work lives together in a Meeting? We sit, silently, and look within - Zim. We seek before we speak - Zim. We speak our light in that Meeting. Zum. We listen, deeply to what the other says - Zim, we take it in, hold it. If we don't understand, we ask, we question - Zim. Then we speak - Zum.

This process of going inside ourselves to empty our selves is our religious tradition. Traditional cultures act in a reactive mode. They, we, do things as our parents did, and we do not sit down at the drawing-board to reinvent the wheel each time there is something to move. We act in the manner of our traditional culture, as we say, we act in the way of Friends.

But, we Friends, are rare in our lack of a minister or pope, who would then tell us how to act within our traditional culture. We have a clerk, who simply directs that we should listen and speak, should rest and move. In that moment of movement after rest, in that moment of Zum, we are a proactive culture. As Richard Accetta-Evans says, we are a radical faith at that moment. In the moment of our breathing out, we go from being a quaint folk, sitting silently on wooden benches, to a people who inherit the torch of the abolitionists going out to shed light on the darkness of slavery, the torch of the peaceful activists who shed light on the darkness of war, the torch of those who went to meet with Hitler to shed light on the darkness of nazism. When we act as a meeting, it should be with that radical intention to live in justice, to live in the light of God, to live free of the constraints of conventions of evil and apathy, to let our lives and our actions speak -- not from our ego, but from that light which we see in others, that light we seek collectively.

There are times Friends have told me to do this or that, it is how the real world is... I listen, but, I am afraid it carries little weight. It is simply the reactive voice of tradition. For me, being a Friend is to stand on tradition when it comes to approaching light - Zim. But, in breathing out, in walking in the world but not being of the world, that is the proactive moment - the moment of Zum. It is knowing that the statement do this because it is the way it is expected it will be done, is not seeking God's direction.

So, how will we know the Children of Light. By rest and movement. Zim - Zum.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Taking Care of a Small Bit of Frontier

Perhaps someday I will be able to share with you all, my past grief and concern for which there seemed no hope. I can say, small gains are being made.

What I can say, is that there is comfort and even small joy on maintaining a patch of land on the frontier, doing small things towards great ends. I have found that my mother is ill, and have not written much, as I am taking care of her for most of every day. I make her breakfast, do her bills, organize her business and care, take her to dinner, and there is great joy in that.

There is joy in taking care of my father's life's work, his small piece of what was once a dangerous frontier. When we moved here, each member of the family was threatened with violence, we were all robbed at knife point, gun point. My father was stabbed eleven times, I had a bottle broken over my head in a robbery ... I saw a number of people stabbed, shot, even die on the street, but we stayed. There was no word, "gentrification," as we were not the gentry. We were working class, even below that much of the time, building, tending, growing.

I think of the hours, days, years, my father cleaned the sidewalk in front of our theater. I was thinking of this, when my mother came down, as I swept and washed the sidewalk, as I do often... She said that the neighborhood was in such danger. So many of the little places she went are now gone. "I'd walk a block to the woman who would tailor my clothes... " I reminded her of the danger of the old days. She told me I can't change the neighborhood, that the developers are tearing it all down. I told her that we are still on a frontier. However, we are now fighting new dangerous people, people who are destroying the value of all we built here. My father did not set out to change the neighborhood by making others do anything. He only tended his small patch of the world, keeping it clean, well run, hospitable, and let his life speak in that way.

Our little homestead is still surrounded by wilderness, now a wilderness of heartless developers, gentrification, the gentry attempting to force us to give up what workers built. Knives and guns are replaced by worthless glittering promises. But, I hope someday, my life might speak, the way my father's did, to maintain well, a small patch of the world, so that my family and neighbors can be comfortable, happy and safe. It feels rather lonely, not having a child at my side, as my father did, who I could feel would someday do the same. But, there is some joy in the moment.