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The Quaker Spa

I’m no expert on Quaker history, but I’m familiar with the basic outlines. One general observation I can make about Quaker history is this: Early Friends started by getting imprisoned often for breaking the rules, and then they continued as rule-breakers throughout the centuries. Quakers have broken both government laws and cultural conventions. This pattern of rule-breaking emerges from the same source as our testimonies do: Quaker worship.

On Relevance (March 2021)

Small Steps toward Climate Justice

Dear Friends: Thanks to Shelly Tanenbaum, Kathy Barnhart, and Rick Herbert for their Western Friend article (Jan/Feb 2021) on their role in encouraging University of California’s divestment from fossil fuel companies. I appreciate their Quaker modesty about their role and about what divestment can do. By itself, divestment cannot bring Exxon, Chevron, Shell, & Company to their knees, but . . . “small steps,” as some Friends say. 

On Relevance (March 2021)

Across the Generational Divide

Dear Editor: In response to Rebekah Percy’s article in your Jan/Feb 2021 issue, I will start by saying that every generation faces challenges which seem daunting. Future challenges, remaining to be withstood, will always look more daunting than past problems that have been resolved, even if they have only been resolved in ways that have kicked the can down the road.

On Relevance (March 2021)

On Tricks

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. But actual creation is riddled with imperfection, trial and error, justice and injustice, an ocean of darkness flowing beneath the ocean of light.

On Tricks (May 2021)

Towards Peace in Yemen

Early in January 2015, my world changed. My dad called to inform me that my cousin Muath Safi Yousef al-Kasasbeh, a Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot, had been captured and burned to death by the militant group ISIL – after Muath’s F-16 fighter aircraft malfunctioned and crashed over Syria. Although I had never met this cousin of mine, my heart pounded with grief, listening to the rage and despair in my father’s voice. He was devastated, and he vowed that Jordan would take revenge.

On Tricks (May 2021)

A Longing for Beauty

On a narrow country road eleven miles north of Santa Barbara, California, you will spot the sign for Chumash Painted Cave State Historical Park. Stop and peer through the protective fencing into the small sandstone grotto by the side of the road, and you will see colorful wheel-like and ladder-like designs painted by native people several hundred to a thousand years ago. The figures may be shamanic designs, or they may be depictions of a solar eclipse that occurred in 1677. Nobody can be sure. To me, a nonexpert, they are striking examples of beauty from long ago, created to be seen.

On Tricks (May 2021)

Final Accounting: Carpe Mortem

Kathleen Fitzgerald: The Women’s Group of Live Oak Friends Meeting has been gathering monthly for decades. We have shared and listened deeply through childbirth, parenting, partnering, unpartnering, changing jobs, changing everything, emptying nests, retiring, and finding our way with special regard to our testimonies.

On Debt (July 2021)

An Invitation to COP26

Few people need to be reminded that the past year and a half have been particularly tough for the entire human community. A seemingly unending stream of crises have made exhaustion, confusion, and anger all too commonplace. At times, it feels like the best we can do is simply hunker down and ride out the storm. However, as the storm gets worse, even that strategy doesn’t work so well.

On Debt (July 2021)

DIY Divestment

Some tasks seem to take a long time to get started. Doing dishes, weeding the garden, and paying bills come to mind. Once I’ve finally gotten going, I wonder why they ever seemed like a big deal. Divesting my family’s bank accounts from fossil fuels was like that.

On Debt (July 2021)