Sunday, 23 June 2019

Quakers and Social Media

A photo of a smartphone screen with icons for social media apps showing, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Myspace
Photo includes trademarks that are the property of
their respective owners.
Love it or hate it, social media is now part of our world. It's not a purely western phenomenon, nor something restricted to “developed” economies. Not only is it prevalent in the so-called BRICS economies, or even the so-called “Next Eleven”, but it is increasingly a meaningful part of life in pretty much every country where it is available – and it’s available in more than you might think. We might look at how much our computers cost, in the Global Economic North, and the price of iPhones and their most direct competitors, and boggle at the idea that people in poorer countries have access, but remember that far more inexpensive phones exist. Companies want to make money from every population they can, and if that means finding a way to make it affordable to additional populations, that is what will happen. Also, it is worth remembering that every country, no matter how much poorer it may seem, has a wealthy elite. In fact, the biggest barrier to social media adoption in some parts of the world is not wealth, but literacy.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Sun and Clouds

A photograph of the sky, with some landscape in the background, showing clouds above and below the viewer and the sun shining through the clouds above.
The Spirit is like the sun. It is always there, its light shining always and in every direction, as bright one moment as any other. But like the sun, it does not always seem as bright to us from day to day, or hour to hour, or moment to moment – though even to our perception, there is no night of the Spirit.
What, then, are the clouds that make the sun seem dim or obscure? Perhaps our own condition: both the things that we do that put that separation between us and the Divine, that make us blind or deaf to it until we have put our own spirit in better condition, and the things that we have less control over – our state of mind, the distractions of our daily life, tiredness or busy-ness. Perhaps also something outside ourselves that is pure chance, like the behemoths and the wisps of sparse droplets of water and ice crystals that we see in the sky.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

A Salutary Prayer

A frozen bubble rests on a frosty stone or log, catching the light.
Do not give me certainty.
It is seductive and comforting, but it closes my mind.
Give me curiosity.
The desire to know and understand experiences other than my own.
Give me scepticism,
So I challenge what I hear, what I see, and what I know.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Thoughts on Revision

A photograph of Quaker Faith & Practice in various forms: a printed copy of the red book, a copy of the revised Chapter 16 in pamphlet form, a Kindle showing an ebook version, and a tablet showing the web version.
So, Britain Yearly Meeting has decided – nearly a year ago now – to start the process of revising our Book of Discipline, Quaker faith & practice. As I have previously written, I am very much supportive of this process, seeing it as an opportunity. The revision committee has been appointed, with several people on it being well known to me, and showing quite a range of diversity – as had been requested of nominations. As they slowly and thoughtfully begin their work, I wish to offer them – and the wider community – some thoughts. I suppose this might be considered an ‘open letter’, but I do not intend it in the way that most open letters are used; they are generally in the context of campaigning, and I do not consider it appropriate that anyone campaign for anything in the context of the revision process. This is not about lobbying and defending interests, but about coming together to reach the right decisions for our Yearly Meeting at this time, just as in all of our spirit-led decision-making. This post is just my unasked for advice, or perhaps a statement of my own hopes. Members of the committee, and of the wider Quaker community in Britain, can take it as they will.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Where Things Are, Where They're Going

A view down a road in a somewhat bleak landscape, with low hills on either side. The sky is overcast above.
This blog has been a bit quiet lately. Very few posts other than the Maxims and Aphorisms, and I’ve even missed posting those a few times lately. There are reasons for this that I shan’t be shouting about publicly, but I have been reflecting on where I want to go with a few things.
Firstly, I don’t want anyone to worry, either about me or about the blog. I’m okay, or will be, and the blog will continue much as before, with the same sort of mix of content. For those who have backed my Patreon, I apologise for the lack of updates (though the backing never reached the level where I made a commitment to a certain rate of posting), and that will get better.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

What About When You Don't Hope So?

A photograph of the face of a tabby cat with a seemingly doubtful or sceptical expression.
Sceptical Cat isn't sure you read the sense of the meeting aright.
As I discussed in some detail in an earlier post, the tradition – at least among British Friends – when a clerk offers a minute during a business session is to indicate assent/consent by saying “I hope so” (often elided to just “hope so”). But what about when you cannot do so? What do Friends do in that situation, and what should they do?
This is an interesting question to look at, because both the theory and the practice vary between communities of Friends, and have varied over time, somewhat separately from one another. I shan’t attempt to summarise everything done everywhere, nor identify when or where a practice was or is common, but I will try and give an overview of different approaches – and my opinion of them. First, however, we must consider the different sorts of disagreement.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Candle

A massed collection of thick candles, with some height, each lit and partly consumed. As they have burned, the wax of the body has melted around the flame, and each is thus a slightly different shape.
Candles are an amazingly rich source of metaphors. They show up in common sayings, such as “better to light a candle than curse the darkness” (which is itself of debated origin, often given as an old Chinese proverb but possibly dating to a written sermon by an American preacher published in 1907), and are a popular form of imagery as well as a focus for meditation or hypnosis. I doubt this is the first candle metaphor for Quaker spirituality, but it is the one I am given.
The gathered meeting is a table of candles, much as one might find in some churches. Each of us is a candle, stood shoulder to shoulder with the others, wax and wick and flame.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

What's This ‘Privilege’ Thing, Then?


A cartoon drawing of two green eyes on a black background, set in a position of puzzlement or scepticism.
In about a month, Friends from across Britain – and beyond – will gather in London for Britain Yearly Meeting 2019. The theme for this year is privilege, examining our own and the range of privilege within our community. As the document Preparing for Yearly Meeting (available from the BYM website) notes:
Privilege – whether we recognise it or not – fundamentally impacts our ability to act on our urgent Quaker concerns regarding climate justice and sustainability, and inclusion and diversity. Privilege is fluid, there are many types, and each varies according to context. The purpose of our examination of privilege is to help each of us become aware of the unseen chains that bind us and determine how we act in our lives.
That document has a lot of great material to prepare, and I don't intend to reproduce it or compete with it. There is also a ‘toolkit’ available from the same link above, Owning power and privilege, produced by QPSW, and I do not intend to supplant that, either. It looks at some key concepts and explains them somewhat shallowly, albeit with examples. I say this not as a criticism – for many, this is the most we can expect them to learn about this on their own, and the information in the toolkit is certainly clearer than a lot of explanations of these things. Hopefully, sharper learning will come from sessions at YM.
There are two things that I want to try and help with, in this post. One is simply to recognise the fact that most active Quakers in this country, including myself, won't be at Yearly Meeting. I imagine Friends House would collapse – organisationally, if not physically – if that weren't the case. Friends elsewhere in the world who are interested in the same sorts of learning that Britain YM is trying to encourage will also (in the vast majority) won't be there. These conversations have to happen in other places if they are to have the greatest benefit.
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