Friday, November 12, 2010


[News flash: the Odyssey lives to tote us around for at least another year. We hope. Parts were replaced.   Unless that recent, chugging noise when you turn on the ignition means something dire...]

Here's the real post:

A pastor at the Presbyterian church we attended a few years ago told me that he thought my interest in returning to the Quaker meeting of my youth had to do with authority: Quakers are anti-authority, he said. Since I had been abused by authority figures in my life, I was attracted to a place that didn't have leaders who, though perfectly fine men, made me feel threatened.

It's plausible, but I don't think it's accurate.  I find it interesting that the pastor assumed that some pathology or trauma lay at the root of my interest in Quakerism.  And did he think I found him threatening?  I didn't.

Actually, it's quite simple. I needed silence. Church was full of talk and restlessness. Stand up. Sing a hymn.  Sit down. Recite something. Listen to more talk. Go home, cogitate, and then tell someone what you got out of it.  Oh, and keep talking to your kids to make sure they 'get it.'

In actual fact, there was nothing wrong with that church. It's a perfectly fine way to conduct worship.  Cogito ergo sum.  Which looks weirdly (to one who failed Latin) like "cogito is the sum."  

For me, in that particular church, the talk was of an exhaustingly rational bent.  My verbal and reasoning capacity is already on "hyperactive hyperdrive," to quote Buzz Lightyear.   I get tired of walking around under my own head.

And as a fiction writer, it was beginning to dawn on me that words emerge from a well of silence.  That deeper part of my mind needed nurturing.  So I returned to Quakerism, which I had left behind in evangelical Christian zeal at age 19.

It's really that simple.  But I was afraid to talk about it on the blog because of how I would have responded years ago, with all good motives, to anyone who appeared to be rejecting my version of Christianity.


Laura said...

"I get tired of walking around under my own head."
Great line - I had a friend once recommend that I get my brain stapled to limit my thinking!
There is so much to learn and understand if we have silence in order to hear. In our attention-deficit oriented society even our churches have become more and more busy. If there is too much silence the organist feels the need to start in. I love that my spiritual roots are planted in a tradition that has not changed and that does not seek to entertain. Nice post.

Catherine Stine said...

Ah, yes, silence, space, air, no one talking at you, enough calm to think and let your thoughts settle where they may.
Makes sense to me!

Rich Sidney said...

I love it!

Anonymous said...

What I really appreciate about Quakerism is that it is what you make it, just like life. I always find it interesting what others who don't have the experience ascribe to it. I am not a religious believer, but for Quakers, and having gone to Quaker school, that doesn't matter. That's pretty great. So I tell people, "if I would call myself anything, it would be Quaker."

HelenQP said...

Thanks, guys! It's funny how childhood influences take root. I was convinced as a child that I hated meeting. All the while it was having its quiet way with me. Yes, it's a relief not to be expected to be so dang rational all the time, and Quakers (tho' they have their eccentricities)don't generally get very anxious with people about what they believe. That's also a relief.