After spending more than 25 years at Boulder Meeting avoiding business meetings and what we so lovingly call “Quaker Process,” here I am poised to be your new clerk. What have you done? I was quite content to enjoy our deep and rich and communal silence without the tedium and tussle and patient work of decision making — the hard and humbling work of every true human community. I was content to avoid the necessary tensions and difficulties of really being with and working with others who hold a wide diversity of views, priorities and needs. Being asked to be associate clerk two years ago was like coming out of the safety of my back pew isolation. If I tried to describe myself, my inward being, I would say that I tend to be a loner, a mystic, a scholar, a collector of books, preferring depth over breadth, no doubt at least a little hard to get to know. Not meaning to be rude.
I have sequentially read the works of Luther, Kierkegaard, Jung, Heidegger, Ibn Arabi the great Sufi, then Thomas Merton. Recently I have returned to the Rhineland mystics, Eckhart, John Tauler, also the works of the Desert Fathers of the early church, offsetting that with the great medieval feminine mystics. I’m a haphazard practitioner of contemplation, a poet and a photographer as the muse strikes. A father of three most glorious daughters, a step daughter and a step son, and now 12 grand kids, including 5 Haitians.
When I was asked to be the associate clerk, one strangely useful thing I was lead to do in my discernment process was to throw the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of Oracle. The result was hexagram #1, “The Creative”. To get that particular hexagram, the three tossed coins must fall exactly the same way six times in a row. That got my attention, to say the least! The first line in the classic Wilhelm interpretation is “The first hexagram is made up of six unbroken lines. These unbroken lines stand for the primal power, which is light-giving, active, strong, and of the spirit.” The iconic symbol of this reading is the dragon, this mythic creature uniting heaven and earth, things above and things below — spirit and earth. How wild is that! How necessary! I’m tempted to start wearing a dragon pin as a kind of totem adviser. We could use a pet dragon at Meeting.
Just in case any of you have fears that I’m a rigid male orthodox ex-Lutheran in disguise, years ago now friend Denny Webster, my back bench sister for so many years, sent me off to a astrologist. (I always obey my sisters.) The star master said that in a past life I had been a religious nun, perhaps an abbess, who uncomfortably lived in a male dominated world, unhappy with her lot, but a sly and subtle operator. So you will have an ex-nun, I Ching throwing, astrologer-visiting Clerk, who reads Meister Eckhart. What could be wrong with that?
I will certainly try my best to honor our Quaker ways, although at times I think we should wear our identities a bit more loosely: not quite so attached to our self-righteous personas (masks in Greek). Let’s give ourselves permission to be less than perfect, to make mistakes. Let’s try to be honest and real with one another. Let’s celebrate our diversity and not be afraid of it. If God or Hagia Sophia (holy wisdom) or Spirit (breath) loves anything, it seems she is head over heels infatuated with diversity. Just take a walk anywhere with your eyes wide open and receptive. Let’s expand our sense of joy and trust. Let’s have our holy communion of silence increase in us the courage to be real and alive: to be released and set free to serve and love this extraordinarily beautiful and so broken world. We have a unique gift to give to our community and to the world: a revolutionary encounter with the Holy Spirit in the deepest, most alive part of our souls or psyches, without dogma, without fences, released. Our shared task as community is to encourage one another on this personal and collective journey of unfolding.
May it be so — together let’s discover and create.
Grace to you and Peace
Here’s one of my more abstractly processed photos.
I call it “The Mystic Road to the Far” taken in the Palouse area, WA State.