That Clear and Certain Sound (review)

That Clear and Certain Sound
by Pamela Haines
reviewed by Mary Ann Petersen

What rings true? Something with “that clear and certain sound.”

This book by Pamela Haines is short and dense with content. It is part of the series Quaker Quicks. As Haines describes it, she assembled the book from a series of essays and meditations she had composed over many years, concerning the subjects of being alive, staying alert and awake, reaching for solid ground, and “stretching across barriers for the hearts of others.”

That Clear and Certain Sound: Finding Solid Ground in Perilous Times is best digested one chapter at a time, maybe two. The reader needs time to absorb and reflect. The chapters have titles like “love and grief,” “separation and belonging,” “hardship and hope,” and “peril and possibility.”

You can open the book at any point and get right into something meaningful.

Concerning the question of how to approach problem-solving with others, Haines reflects that although she habitually tries to bring kindness into problem-solving situations, she is less inclined to act with confidence. She suggests that we try bringing more confidence into our efforts. Her experience has taught her that although many problems are complex and don’t have easy solutions, confidence can help propel progress. It’s not a bravado thing. When one “owns” the level of capability that they are bringing to the broader effort, it helps uplift the effort for everyone’s benefit.

Show up. It’s not our job to make assumptions about how others perceive us. That’s their job. Our job is to keep showing up as fully as we know how, remember our values, and act in alignment with those values. When we inhabit our own centers fully, we can reach out to others confidently and be authentic while doing so. 

In another theme, the book explores the relationship between curiosity and respect. “When you are being curious, you can’t be judgmental, because there are no right answers.” Curiosity seems critical for everything in this book. Wondering implies a desire for connection, and this whole book centers around connection – with ourselves, with others, and with the planet and spirit. 

Don’t stop inquiring, Haines encourages. “We may stop inquiring because we doubt our capacity to understand.” But keep asking questions, whether you understand the answers immediately or not.

Also, Haines believes our imaginations may save us! We need to be creative rather than plodding along in the same trenches because they appear orderly. We need to reach beyond the limits that we expect of ourselves and what we have grown to expect of each other. 

Blowing on coals is an image that Haines offers to help us visualize how to reignite, awaken, and light up all the gifts we need to carry into our work of understanding, helping, and repairing. “We can help ease away the overlay of uncaring, the dead covering of fear and discouragement. We can breathe out our hope, love and confidence in that person or that situation.” 

[pullquote[Still another major theme in this book concerns differences between generative and extractive behaviors. This difference – creating and giving versus getting and taking – applies not only to our material relationship with our planet. It also applies to our relationships with other people. I like the way Haines explains the difference between building productivity by generating loyalty versus trying to reach collective goals by extracting obedience. She gives some good reminders to apply a generative approach to all aspects of our lives, to help guide us toward mutually satisfying and trusting relationships.

Each section of this book conveys a message that does best with a few beats of silence afterwards. The chapters relate to each other and also stand alone.

Pamela Haines engages the reader like a good friend bringing you up to date on what’s going on in her life and the lives of others. She helps you relate to perspectives that are global. That Clear and Certain Sound calls out to any reader looking for thoughts on wisdom, balance, and compassion.  ~~~

– Mary Ann Petersen is a member of Eugene Friends Meeting (NPYM).


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