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.