I was fascinated at the last BBQ discussion quietly listening to many of you speak on what being a Quaker means to you and why you come to Meeting. Some said it is because of the deep silence. I too can check that box. Some said it was the experience within your deepest self of what is far greater than the ego, call it what you will. I can check that box. Some said how the exquisite wonder and mystery of creation, the natural world, the cosmic fullness, is somehow reflected in the unique and exquisite mystery of each individual consciousness. Here too I can check that box. The mystery without is One with the mystery within. Some said, well, there is just no place else to go for now in this journey. Check that too. So far, so good.
The richness (and difficulty) of our tradition is that we do not follow one path or speak one language of the heart, or even seek conformity. Praise “God” shall I say, for diversity. I sincerely hope that we can promote curiosity about, and an embracing of, our vital diversity in what matters most to us, of why we come and continue to come to Boulder Meeting of Friends. One size does not fit all! And funny thing, we change sizes as we travel our path.
Many expressed serious doubt and discomfort with the word God. Many are very leery of any authority. Many have been wounded or constricted by earlier religious teachings or abuse. I suppose I can check that box too. Obviously for those who know me, I personally have been deeply shaped by the Christian mystical tradition, which of course is the historic and spiritual tap root of Quakerism. I consider myself a Christian Quaker. I have not come easily to that understanding or identify. It has been a hard and meandering interior journey, at times confusing and surprising, with many cul-du-sacs,
many dry and arid places along the way. But, for me, I have found it a deep and rich and vitally creative path. It contains a whole pantheon of religious geniuses, male and female. Their lives spoke, as the early Quakers knew well. Religion is not about holding particular concepts, but always a living relationship, an orientation of the heart to what always goes beyond the speakable. “God” is not something you “believe” in, but something you experience. How does T. S. Eliot put it? “To come back to where you started and to know it for the first time.” That’s been largely true for me.
Christianity certainly has not been my only or exclusive source. Religious traditions can no longer be seen in isolation. That has always been a stupid and dangerous practice. The Sufis, Zen, the Jewish mystics, antique and neoplatonic philosophy, a long intense journey with Martin Heidegger, all have helped me along my particular path. Religious traditions do not have to be in competition. They can serve and deepen one another.
Those of us who are Christian Quakers should not feel we need to cower in some corner, afraid to share or speak out of our deepest truth. We should not be fearful of using the language of theism or of Jesus or the Bible or the early Quakers within our so called liberal Boulder Meeting. Our worship room happily has no corners in which to cower! Just as you who are more rooted and nourished in Buddhism or Taoism, Judaism or humanistic philosophy, atheist universalism, or native spirituality should not be ashamed here to speak and share your truth, your path. Let’s celebrate our vital
diversity and not be afraid of it. Let’s be more curious towards one another and less judgmental. Let’s get busy helping each other on this life intensifying journey of soul that is both an ascent and a descent, both a joyful liberation and a breaking open of hearts and minds. True religion has no room for arrogance or rigid, sealed, self-serving boxes. Let’s keep opening up the “soul’s east window of divine surprise”.
Grace and Peace
(In the service of adding color and image to our website I’ve included another of my photos. I encourage other artists among us to send something to either the web folks or to me. It’s all about creativity!)