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The Long View In the mid-1730s, John Bartram, a Quaker living near Philadelphia, wrote the following in his journal: “One day I was very busy in holding my plough (for thee seest I am but a ploughman), and being weary, I ran under the shade of a tree to repose myself. I cast my eyes on a daisy; I plucked it mechanically, and viewed it with more curiosity than common country farmers are wont to do, and observed therein very many distinct parts, some perpendicular, some horizontal. What a shame, said my mind, or something that inspired my mind, that thee shouldst have employed so many years in tilling the earth, and destroying so many flowers and plants, without being acquainted with their structures and their uses!”

On Mixture (November 2018)

Service – A Gateway to Fulfillment The question of how to have a fulfilling existence during our short time on earth is especially significant in contemporary society. Many of us find that we struggle much less than our ancestors did for survival and basic necessities. We don’t have tigers chasing us, or wolves bothering us. As a result, when our short-term survival is not on the line, our prefrontal cortexes can direct their energies to questions of long-term happiness.

On Puzzles (April 2019)

Appreciative Eldering When I first got involved in Friends Meetings, I was fortunate to have a number of role models and elders to guide my first steps into this society, which was foreign to the world I had known. I felt immediately that I was a Quaker and that I had been one for years before discovering a meeting. But learning the Quaker jargon took a while. Some of it seemed so natural because it fit so well, but some of it required absorbing new processes and new ways of looking at the community life. I did some of that learning by osmosis, some by asking questions, and some by getting help from more experienced Friends.

On Mediation (January 2020)

Quakers and Conflict In your Quaker meeting, you may have experienced events similar to these: a Friend doesn’t want to be on a committee with another Friend due to a past conflict; two Friends complain about a third party, whom they find to be impossible (yes, it does happen); a Friend speaks up in business meeting about a conflict that is going on, and no one responds or takes any follow-up action.

On Mediation (January 2020)

On the Side of the Rebel Jesus During my year of spiritual service with Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), Jesus’s teachings became much more relevant to my life. I began to notice how his message relates to facets of my life that once seemed separate from my spirituality – in particular, my activism. Being introduced to the topic of liberation theology during my time in this program opened up a new window through which I could look at the world.

On Wealth (May 2020)

Race and Faith (abridged) [The following text was drawn from a complete manuscript of José Santos Woss’s keynote talk, which is published at: https://westernfriend.org/media/race-and-faith-unabridged]

On Cliques (September 2021)

Quakers Do What! Why? (review) I am convinced again, Friends! Credit goes to Quakers Do What! Why?, a 72-page booklet from Quaker Quicks, written by Rhiannon Grant. In it, she takes the reader through a wide range of beliefs and practices of unprogrammed Quakers, using a friendly, conversational style. For example, the first chapter is titled: “Wait – Quakers still exist?” This book is great for people interested in exploring what it means to be Quaker as well as being full of great reminders for seasoned Friends. 

On Words (November 2021)

Botany on an Endangered Planet I have spent my whole life learning about the natural world. I am a professional botanist whose career was focused for fifty-plus years on trying to use science to understand and “save” specific unusual components of our earth’s ecosystems. I have learned a lot about climate change over the many years since Al Gore published Earth in the Balance in 1992, which my life partner, Dr. Charles Avery, used as a textbook in his Northern Arizona University conservation classes.  However, in recent decades, I have become increasingly sad, frustrated, angry, and sometimes depressed that humans in general, and climate-change-deniers in particular, are threatening the health of our whole earth.

On Science (November 2022)

God (or Not) among Quakers [This article was excerpted from a more detailed original, which is published online at: https://westernfriend.org/media/concepts-god-or-not]

On Conflict (January 2023)