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Quaker Culture: Plain Speech At the time when Quakerism began in the seventeenth century, the expression “plain speech” had a particular meaning for Friends. The plural form of the second person in English (you) was used to address someone of distinction or higher social status. The singular form (thee) was used to address one’s peers. George Fox and his Quaker followers chose to use the singular form to address everyone, reflecting a firm belief that all are equal in the eyes of God. The grammatical distinction has long since fallen into disuse, even among Quakers who continued the practice well into the twentieth century. The underlying belief, however, remains intact.  

On Superiority (July 2013)

Some Notes on Quaker Speech When Quakerism originated in the 17th century, English pronouns in all groups, with one major exception, had already achieved the forms we use today:

On Heritage (July 2016)

Confidence Friends follow rules both spoken and unspoken; these guide our practices and behaviors, and they change over time and distance. In some cases, rules may have been followed long ago for good reasons, but are no longer common practice now. Similarly, what is standard in one meeting might be unusual in another. We like to think we are generally responding to continuing revelation, but sometimes we are merely reflecting contemporary attitudes.

On Rules (November 2020)

Your Sons and Your Daughters will Prophesy Excerpts from a presentation to Pacific Yearly Meeting; July 15, 2014; Walker Creek Ranch, Petaluma, California

On Family (September 2014)

Our Debt to America’s Indigenous A movement is spreading across the country to embed in many types of American cultural institutions a routine and repeated statement – verbal, written, or both – acknowledging that European culture displaced the landholdings of Indigenous peoples. Several Quaker monthly meetings now open each session with a verbal statement like this, as do some regional and yearly gatherings.

On Debt (July 2021)

Quaker Water There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?” – David Foster Wallace, This is Water (2009)

On Insight (March 2017)

Ulysses (review) Many Friends are unaware that James Joyce included a Quaker librarian, Lyster, in Ulysses. As the Religious Society of Friends gropes out of its colorless stasis, Ulysses reminds us that Friends carry a cultural presence beyond the confines of minutes, meetings, and social concerns.  Even so, [pullquote]I encourage Friends to read Ulysses not for its utility, but as a brutally honest exploration of our inner condition.[/pullquote]

On Mediation (January 2020)