Friday, July 29, 2005

Work work work. Meetings meetings meetings.

It has been a busy week, reminescent of the time a few years ago when our 7 year old daughter said one night as I dashed up from the supper table to a committee meeting, "That's my dad. Work work work. Meetings meetings meetings."

I took that to heart. When my second three-year term on the Friends School board ended, I then took a quasi-sabbatical from any on-going, out-of-the home, meeting or community responsibilities. I finished my last year as assistant clerk of the meeting and did accept a nomination to a 3-meeting-a-year board during this time, but otherwise was pretty faithful at saying "no." Near the end of that year, I left my full-time job to take a half-time one (I've since gone to 80%) and felt much more free and open, with hardly a twinge of guilt.

It was during this time that I came to terms with the severe depression that had been clouding my life for too many years and got the treatment I needed. Things felt in balance.

Gradually, though, I've been accepting things that I've been asked to do if I feel a call to do them and they make sense, particularly if they're time limited, e.g., teacing a 7-week Quakerism 101 class, serving on a marriage or membership committee. The pace has generally been OK, but this past week or two particularly intense -- even with both children off to camps -- and I'm kind of wrung out. I'm trying right now to get this post off and prepare for our annual Nightengales singing weekend that begins tonight. Singing always helps me.

All of this is a long way of saying that I haven't found the time to publish a new post. But I will post these two short excerpts from two Pendle Hill pamphlets that I excerpted for the newsletter. Each make points that strike me as perfectly in tune with my own thinking and say it more clearly than I could at the moment.

From The Practice of the Love of God by Kenneth Boulding, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 374. © 2004 by Pendle Hill:

Indeed, the Love of God is the only sure foundation for the love of neighbor. Without the love of God the command to love our neighbor is a monstrous sarcasm, the imposition on humankind of impossible conflict between the moral sense and the will. For even though we may agree, intellectually, that the height of morality is to love our neighbor, how can we do this if our neighbor is not lovable, and more, if our neighbor is also our enemy? How can I love the Germans, who [in 1942], with seeming wantonness, have destroyed the prim suburb in which I first grew, who have unroofed the chapel in which I first learned the things of God and the meetinghouse in which I joined the Society of Friends? How can we love those who out of the lust for power have crushed under foot the tender plant of European liberty and cooperation, and made of Europe a hell of hatred, hunger, and bitterness that generations will hardly fill up? . . . How can a German love the English and the Americans, who are threatening to starve him for a second time into submission, and who are exposing him to a defeat that will bring revenge, desolation, and chaos to his homeland?

There is only answer to these questions: we can only love our enemies, we can only truly forgive a wrong by the overflow of the love and forgiveness of God.
From Living in Virtue, Declaring Against War: The Spiritual Roots of the Peace Testimony by Steve Smith. Pendle Hill pamphlet 378, © by 2005 Pendle Hill:
At its inception, and throughout most of the history of the Religious Society of Friends, the Peace Testimony has been understood not as a general philosophical principle, but as the expression of changed lives, the fruit of personal spiritual transformation. . . .

To assert a general principle calls for a certain sort of consistency: what I assert as a rule of good conduct, I must strive to live by, or stand accused of hypocrisy. . . Principle integrity is top-heavy: first a judgment of the mind, then the conforming action.

In contrast, Friends’ testimonies are not judgments of the mind but voices of the heart. . . .Quaker integrity is not mere logical consistency, but deep authenticity: not merely conforming one’s behavior to one’s professed principles, but speaking of what one has become, “talking the walk”. . . .When I yield to the Christ within, right action flows naturally.

The Peace Testimony exemplifies not principle pacifism but testimony pacifism. . . Without its spiritual ground the Peace Testimony is profoundly weakened. It becomes merely a “Peace Principle” – one partisan position among others, subject of debate, contention and counterexample.. . .
Off to sing!


Martin Kelley said...

Hi Paul,
Aren't quasi-sabbaticals great? I sort of backed into one with my Meeting after my co-clerkship was up. It's good to look around sometimes. Have you read yesterday's guest piece by Evan Welkin on the Quaker Ranter? He does a good job asking question of the uberQuaker culture of busying ourselves too much. Don't get too busy to hear that still small voice!
Your friend & the spirit's servant,

Mark Wutka said...

I really enjoyed "The Practice of the Love of God". It was originally delivered as a lecture in 1942 and is available online.

Robin M. said...

I have had a song by Rhonda Vincent running through my head the last week, "If You Don't Love Your Neighbor Then You Don't Love God" - the uptempo bluegrass gospel version of the Kenneth Boulding pamphlet.