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On Words Language is a technology, a means of employing experience-based knowledge for practical purposes. Words are torches that beam from mind to mind, prompting individuals to turn their attentions in the same direction and to coordinate their efforts for survival. Many species rely on communication systems in this way. Homo sapiens, however, is a species that seems to have undergone a freakishly powerful cognitive mutation about 70,000 years ago. We became enabled then to speak of fictions.

On Words (November 2021)

Speaking of Animacy How delighted we are when our children first begin to talk! What a miracle, what a joy! I have felt that joy and sense of the miraculous when that little being, my young child, could finally begin to share with me their wishes, thoughts, feelings, questions, and more – the first time they “used their words.” Even then, however, I was also aware of the drawbacks of learning our “native” spoken language. In the case of my own children, the language was English, and in learning this, I knew they would automatically be “pre-programmed” with the world-view inherent in English. This would limit where their minds could travel, just as learning a different “mother tongue” would limit their minds in a different way.

On Words (November 2021)

Words: The Saving Grace I reached maturity in a time when words were worth a death. Born in the 1920s, raised in the 1930s, I turned eighteen in 1942. As a young man, I knew, by the words Hitler used, that the Nazis represented a force that must be halted. The words describing horrors I could scarcely imagine evoked other words in opposition, words wedded to the deep meaning of the word justice my mother had so carefully taught me, sprung from her study of the New Testament. My mother’s abiding faith in justice, linked to the words of “freedom” and “liberation,” sent shivers over my flesh.

On Words (November 2021)

On Membership and Being in the Light On December 14, 2018, I walked into the Multnomah Friends Meetinghouse for the first time. I felt enveloped in a circle of Light, at one with it and with everyone in the room. I had been searching, longing for this my entire life. I was Home.

On Freedom (January 2022)

A Place to Work for Peace and Justice I am new to this place, Woolman at Sierra Friends Center. I am meeting it as it is now, not as it once was, before the fire. I walk the trails and wander between the buildings, each day learning something new: where and when the deer like to cross Woolman Lane, where gophers’ paths and pipes run underground, where to stand to get cell phone reception.

On Place (May 2022)

Finding Life with the Dead My sanctuary is my favorite cemetery. It’s easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. Shielded by shrubbery, it runs down a slope to the river. Outside, my life is rushed and I lose the bigger picture. Inside, I walk with ghostly companions, listen to their wisdom, and find perspective.

On Place (May 2022)

The Life and Religious Labors of Lloyd Lee Wilson (review) To be precise, the title of this book is: Memoir of the Life and Religious Labors of Lloyd Lee Wilson, a Minister of the Gospel of the Religious Society of Friends, Particularly of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative), to describe the workings of the Lord in the various stages of my life, showing how God is at work in all things for good, whether we perceive it so or not, and how our surrender to divine providence allows God’s work to be done in and through us for the advancement of the Realm of God.

On Cooperation (September 2022)

The Commodification of Quakers Quakers of the early 1800s would not have approved of the flamboyant lifestyle of the poet Lord Byron. But they might have approved of his poem “To a Beautiful Quaker” (1806), in which he associates Quakers with the attributes of peace and virtue. And although Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-selling anti-slavery book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), was written in a genre not approved by Friends – a novel – Friends would not have objected to Stowe’s portrayal of heroic efforts by Quakers to help their fellow man. When Quakers are portrayed by others as positive role models, depending on the circumstances, such portrayals might deserve praise, sufferance, or condemnation.

On Perception (March 2023)