Tuesday, June 13, 2017

the quaker religion is partly based on the idea that if a group of people wait patiently, silent and settled, the presence of the divine spirit will make itself known. one does not need a pastor, priest, or minister. each person is equally likely to receive a message and bring it out to the group, and, in the experience of members, sometimes people find that the message is received as if it were intended for another member. often, there are meetings without messages; the effect of a visitor may lead people to be unwilling or unable to speak.

i left cloudcroft at about 8:15 in order to get to las cruces for ten-o'clock meeting; getting gas in alamo, i happened to see the principal of alamo high school, though i'm not sure he knew who i was (that i was trying to get a job at his high school). the desert was long and hot, even in the morning. going across the organs the car goes up a steep hill and then down into the huge mesilla valley. the meeting house is adobe and in a fashionable part of town just east of downtown. when meeting started there were about seven or eight of us, most older than me, some veteran quakers.

a young woman came in about halfway through. she was unable to keep her eyes off her phone; perhaps something was happening, or, she just couldn't. as it turned out, i believe she had the only kid, a boy about two or maybe one. this boy was walking pretty well, but not saying much, so i'd put him between one and two maybe. the meeting had nice decoration, several paintings, and beyond the main room, a small kitchen. i gave them some navajo tea that i brought; i'd also brought one for my dad.

as i sat there i found that, as usual, it was hard to get my mind off daily concerns, my job, my life, my four kids, my busy schedule, my dad's health. finally i worried about my friend maurine's problem.

i had just published maurine's book, new children of the light. maurine is very invested in quakerism, being a quaker elder. but she finds trouble with her small meeting in its present state, since many of its attenders have rejected god, or at least rejected the traditional view of god as older, male, and judgemental. i try to remind her, it's the things god is associated with - maleness, olderness, judgementalism, that irritate them, not the feeling of one divine power - though of course i don't know how they feel exactly. there is an issue with atheism throughout quakerism, as lots of people feel strongly about rejecting that traditional view, and others are simply unable to redefine it or go along with that.

so suddenly, in the traditional way of quakers, i got a strong message, and it was unmistakable. it was, "call me the great spirit." on reflection, i thought, perhaps this message was meant for maurine, who of course wasn't here in las cruces. but an elder said something to the effect that, now is the time to speak of your concerns, or anything that has come to you. i knew that now was the time. i was quaking a little.

so i told about maurine a little, and said that ordinarily i would be a little more shy around people i didn't know well. but the message was unmistakable, so i told what i'd received, and i also admitted i didn't know quite what to do with the message, although i was sure i'd tell maurine, and also, i would try it. it is not unreasonable, and i am not opposed to it. i figure, if i'm a quaker, and i believe in listening patiently, receiving and delivering messages, i should just do it. first step is just deliver the message, and i did. second step is figuring out what to do with it.

in the past i have written about the pronouns we use to talk about god. finally i concluded that i should not use pronouns to talk about god - after all, god is neither he nor she, and one cannot pretend that it doesn't matter, or let one be more important or prevalent than the other. so, in the end, i concluded, one should simply use the term god when talking about god, and leave pronouns for people. fair enough. but if one uses the term great spirit, one does the same thing. no pronouns. one does not have to even avoid them. perhaps i had not done this earlier, for fear of appropriating a native american idea or term. at some point, you have to just take the cues that are given to you.


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