"Good" Quaker I am not

I have already discussed my lack of community as a child. This was particulary so as far as a spiritual community. My grandparents, whom I am still very close to, taught me through example, not by dictating to me. My grandmother has always been recognized in many circles, from Quakers, to social justice movements, to library affairs, to gardening as actively living out her beliefs. My grandfather is often overlooked as the "husband" of this amazing woman. He is dismissed because he often makes puns and off-color jokes, and likes to flirt with the younger women (and when you are in your 80's that is just about everyone) and makes jokes about how he's old, slow, and has no memory(he's been doing this for as long as I have known him...its an act). But it is my grandfather who quietly "lets his life speak" and who I would like to humbley emmulate. He makes off-color jokes about things he cares about, he is the dirty old man that was a feminist long before most men would admit to such at thing (and how many do now a days that aren't just trying to get laid?). He is kind, treats everyone with respect and dignity. He truly cares about the state of things. And well, he loves chocolate too.

When I first went to college, I wanted community. I was accepted to a scholarship program for Quakers...I wanted a spiritual community and a social community. I found it. I have deeply tied friendships from that time that seem to easily pick-up regardless of how long it has been since we last spoke, this is true of my capital F-friends and small f-friends. But I also saw hypocrisy in action too. But we can save that rant for another day.

I think that many of my elders see me as somewhat of a "bad" quaker if there is such a thing. Not because I don't follow my leadings or that I have somehow decided to dedicate my life to the pursuit of something that harms the greater whole, but because I have too many "swords" yet to lay down. I am an alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, explicative stringing, caffine-addicted, tattooed child. Oh, and its been like a year since I went to meeting. So I don't do corporate worship, I have worship with god and my bed on sunday mornings, but I know god is always with me. You may not be able to count on me to go to meeting and be a "good" quaker, but you can count on me to speak the lord's truth (when I let in the spirit).

So is being a good Quaker about laying down your "swords" and giving yourself to the divine or is it about "letting your life speak," even if that life is speaking/drinking/smoking like a sailor on shore leave...I truly believe life is about your daily interactions with others, the evironment, and all living creatures. Its not about going to meeting every week (though that is important, to keep your self centered to do good Works), its not about reading religous texts, its not about airing your Quaker resume, or your "this is why I am cool (also insert, indie rock, emo, anarchist, peacenik, or hardcore awesome in anyway) resume," its about treating all with dignity and respect.

So if you want I can give you my resume of coolness, or you can keep reading and make up your own minds...too see if I am a "good" or "bad" quaker. But don't hold your breath for me to go to meeting or finish reading the bible, or even lay down some "swords" anytime soon. Because I am bad ass. That isn't true... corporate worship and I have some beef. And last time I tried to go to meeting god did that thing where you get tested and have some Job-like experience, and well, I am no Job. Dude, I perfer to hide from my emotions, I am a mid-westerner afterall. And I just can't be that open right now. It scares me. Maybe this blog will help, I hope.


Elizabeth Bathurst said...

Being true to yourself and the leadings of the Spirit is far more important than assuming a performative identity of "good quaker." Really.

Even if you were attending meeting regularly, serving on committees, maintaining a Quaker blog, abstaining from harmful subtances, reading scripture/quaker writings regularly, or whatever else you think you ought to do, it wouldn't make you a "good Quaker." All of those things can be done with the wrong motivation, which would earn you an "annoying self-rightous quaker" label.

I've been through periods of avoiding worship too. Sometimes because my local meeting was a poor fit and sometimes because I was terrified of what He'd ask of me once I got there. Sometimes worship is just a terrible thing and I feel like I just don't have the emotional strength to do it very often. I'd like to think that I'm passed that phase in my life, but really all I know I'm just in a good place right now.

Can we work on my "why I am hardcore awesome" resume later?


James Naylor said...

I do believe we are in agreement. Though it may seem that I am chastising myself...that was not the intention...I was in my own way addressing the "performative identity" that many choose. I was also hoping this would be something for those that use said "resumes" and who act all holier than thou would perhaps have something to meditate on or use it as a queery of sorts...