A sense of belonging is a blessing. Whether we are animal, plant, bacterium, fungus, or protozoan, each of us has a place in our biosphere. If perfect justice existed, every creature would enjoy a feeling of belonging in whatever place it found itself.
Throughout the ages, humans have kept reinventing the world, over and over again. Language, agriculture, kingdoms, credit, mass production, and social media – each innovation has turned our species upside down, and we’ve flattened countless others in the process. We are a species that is made for tinkering. We are a species with an inclination for figuring out how to make things better.
As Kenneth Boulding summarized in 1979, certain “Quaker distinctives” have held steady from the beginning: 1) faith in the presence of a universal call to perfectibility in all Life, 2) a profound unwillingness to use threat, even for supposedly good ends, 3) a passion for veracity, even in minute particulars of language, and 4) a sense of being upheld by grace, a thing not under human control,
At the level of an individual family, an abused person can walk away from their abuser; they can start a new life elsewhere. That is also possible in a Quaker meeting or even in the Society of Friends – abused members of our Quaker family can leave, and they do.
More than once, I have been humbled by being called racist. My first reaction, however, was not humility. My first reaction was to feel offended and misunderstood. Surely my accuser didn’t know me or my motives or my history. Surely, they were using the term “racist” too broadly – sloppy, really.
Humans cannot actually view reality from a god’s-eye perspective, despite all the scriptures that have been written by some to help direct others in the name of God. At most, humans can intuit glimmers of insights that might align with a god’s-eye view. Consider the lilies of the field.
I love to quote Frank Zappa on this, “Your life is a ribbon of time that you get to decorate.” Early Friends were rightly wary of decoration. They dissented from “high church” practices of pomp and circumstance, oratory and argumentation, frankincense and anointing oils.