Presence is something I cannot fully describe or understand, informing my life and experience even though it is beyond words. It is a grounding, a solace, a push and shove, a challenge to the status quo. My call to dwell in Presence makes me one of the “peculiar people” and may set me apart even from others who call themselves Quaker.
Dear Friends: Each one of us has been evicted from the nice, cozy home of our mother’s womb. Howling at the shock of it, we plunged naked into the winds of change. A newborn who isn’t howling is cause for concern; so rightfully, we voiced our complaints, strangers in a strange land.
[The] very raison d’etre of Quakerism lies in the claim that a passionate unorthodoxy is nearer to the truth than a habitual orthodoxy. . . We believe that mere orthodoxy has little value, and that confused, muddled thought of God is better than the repetition of formulas without thought; that it is better to think wrong than not to think at all.
Dear Editor: In appreciation for the May/June theme, “On Limits,” and each writer’s thoughtful response, I offer fresh words penned by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poetic expression of limits. She gives you her permission to publish this poem.
– Judith Favor, Claremont Meeting (PYM)
I have always longed to be part of a community. But it has become clear to me lately that “belonging” depends on being accountable. I do not mean this in a quid pro quo sense, like an accountant balancing the books. I mean this in the sense of family members being accountable to each other, where they care for each other, and they all contribute as much as they are able.
Let’s be friends. Let’s play a game, or play make-believe, or play around just to see what happens. Let’s play the Massively Multiplayer Offline Game called The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Each of us gets two characters – InnerFriend and OuterFriend – and the goal is to keep them together, as closely as we can, while we move them through The Valley toward The Eternal Mystery.
Quakers have always been wary of what George Fox called “airy notions,” speculative ideas or doctrines not rooted in our experience . . . But we tend to forget that early Friends paradoxically never seemed to be at a loss for words: they made use of a rich and evocative vocabulary to describe their experience with the Divine.