Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Age of Simplicity?

I've been thinking for a while that there's something very significant in the relationship between Quakers and climate change, which maybe we're not responding fully to.

The missing piece in the jigsaw regarding humanity's response to climate change is the absence of a mass movement of the general public forcing/enabling the centres of power to take the action needed.

Quakers have always emphasised different testimonies in response to the challenges of the times. We prioritised equality when slavery was the issue. We prioritised peace when world war was the issue. Now the urgent issue is one of overconsumption, so maybe it's time for us to prioritise simplicity. In terms of Quaker history, maybe the Age of Equality and the Age of Peace need to make way for an Age of Simplicity.

In order to uphold these testimonies, Quakers had to go through an often trying period of internal discernment and threshing. Once that was done, we became united, active, and vocal enough in the world outside to contribute to the change which occurred. This had benefits for us as a worshipping community and obviously it also did good in the world at large. It's good for us spiritually as a community to have a real challenge to face, and we do most good in the world when we face it.

So maybe we need to become a people campaigning for simplicity in the way we have been a people campaigning for peace or equality. I see the beginnings of this among Quakers at the moment, but maybe we could/should go further?

I might write at more length on this when I get time.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Forgiveness and forgetting

All day I have been returning to one particular thought namely, to what extent is forgiveness related to childhood position within the family and the need to often forget issues to enable continued family peace? I know that some may say that I am forgetting the spiritual aspects of this but I believe that, to a great extent, they are related.
In part this was triggered by memories of a school friend who would never consider sharing, after offering one biscuit, packets of chocolate biscuits as normally they were all his; another friend who would never consider taking anything for themselves until everyone else was satisfied, ( There are issues here but I won't look at them further.) and socialisation within the family and school.
As a member of a family of five - 2 adults and 3 children - my own experience was based on sharing (not always willingly in the first instance) though I am now going back 50+ years. It was encouraged, and not only within the immediate family but with friends, and greed was not encouraged but fair shares were. Sometimes it worked and at other times it didn't but although some immediate displays of annoyance, anger etc were made they were usually quickly dissipated within the family and school and things often forgotten; indeed forgetfulness of such issues was encouraged. However those with no brothers or sisters etc. were often quite different in response to such issues and seemed more concerned to their right to what was on offer than others.
Within families there seems to be a great deal of forgetting as, to do so, it may carry on functioning. In part this may be, when children are aware enough, spiritual but a great deal of the time it may be appear, and need to be, necessary and situational but out of this the spiritual can grow. I bet Jesus had a Nelson eye for some things!
I can only speak to my observations and could be very wrong but I do not think that I am arguing to the general from a particular case but from many cases I have observed. This may seem to lack the Q spiritual but there is a mixed relationship with the Q spiritual and the Q temporal from what I can see.
Foregiveness, to last, requires forgetting; forgetting requires foregiveness. These apply not simply in childhood but throughout life but childhood provides the foundations of rock upon which they can be built and not those of sand upon which they can be swept away.
In Love

Friday, 3 July 2009

Concerns, making decisions and nominations

I read the following remarkable passage by John Macmurray in "The Creative Society", written in 1935. Though John Macmurray later became a Quaker, at this time he knew little or nothing of us and our ways. Yet in this passage, to me, he succinctly locates the nature of concerns, the "sense of the meeting" and the nominations process in his own understanding of how true communities should function and get things done. The context of the passage is analysing the relationship between Christianity and Communism, and in particular highlighting the limitations of both as practised.

"What practical steps are we to take to provide an expression for our Christianity in the social field? This question often is associated with a demand for 'leadership,' and the leadership that is meant is the leadership of someone who will tell us what to do and show us how to do it. This form of demand is thoroughly misguided. It is conspicuously anti-democratic and, therefore, anti-Christian. “He that would be first among you let him be your servant." It is of the first importance to remember that Christianity looks for the creative source of social integration in the common people. Until there is a Christian society which knows what it wants and what it must do, leadership can only be a case of the blind leading the blind. When there is a society which knows what must be done, leadership is never a difficulty, because the leader is then merely the agent or the servant of the purpose which he shares and which he is responsible for carrying out. Only within a body of people who are united on the basis of real Christianity can the understanding of what must be done arise [The sense of the meeting]. And this understanding must arise in them. It cannot be given to them from outside. They must first discover the action which they have to take in the social and political field [concern]; then they can commit the carrying out of this defined common purpose to agents of their own choosing [nominations]. The whole principle of democracy involves this. There is a curious idea abroad that only specialists and experts are capable of answering the fundamental questions at issue in modern society. This is the reverse of the truth. The expert and the specialist, the highly trained and highly cultivated individual may be useful and essential for solving technical problems about the means by which the general solution can be carried into practical effect, but they are positively disqualified for deciding what the general purposes should be. There is nothing paradoxical in this."

It is all to easy to say what we do not do: We don't have leaders, we don't vote, we don't have elections, etc. But unless we know what we do do, and why we do it, and ground our understanding of what we do in our lives together, we can all to easy throw the baby out with the bath water when difficulties and problems arise and we crave solutions.