So over the past week, I've re-examined some of the core values of Quakerism, trying to be honest about my own feelings and experiences with each of them. I think I've a long way to go in fully integrating silence, worship, truth, simplicity, service and nonviolence into my daily life. At best I have flashes and moments of inspiration or action on these, rather then long stretches being actively motivated by these principles.
At the core of this, is of course, the illusive state/ feeling/ ideal of Love. Perhaps I should have started with love, which for many Quakers is the beginning and end of their experience. My friend Pauley at Brooklyn Meeting speaks often of the abiding love of God, and how it is the standard upon which everything we do stands or falls.
From an intellectual level, I agree with Pauley, and try and apply that standard to whatever I am doing in the world. But I think from an outward sense, I don't think of myself as a particularly "loving" person to those around me. I've been told that I radiate a certain distance, seriousness, and at times cold demeanor.
One 12-year-old girl at one of our schools in the Bronx came up to me and said, "You scary, mister." I can't do much about my general demeanor or external appearance. I think it's like the old mother's adage, "if you keep making that face, it will stay that way." My default expression is somewhat serious.
What I can do something about is how I use my words. I can try and be more expressive in appreciating, praising, supporting and consoling others.
And I can express with my actions. I can be the one who shows up when someone needs help. I can be the person who calls to check in on someone who I know is going through some difficulty. I can ask how someone is doing before asking for something that I want.
In sum, these are the things that Quakerism is teaching me:
- to seek the still small voice in the quiet of my heart,
- to worship whenever I can,
- to tell the truth,
- to enjoy the simple things,
- to serve others,
- to make peace,
- and most of all to live in the love of God, which exists in me and in everyone and everything around me.
I hope these rambly musings have been of some use to you reading this. It certainly has been a useful exercise for me!