Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lost Quaker Journals: #9 -- John Greenleaf Whittier

From the archives of the Association of Bad Friends. All rights reserved.

WALT WHITMAN, on a summer's day,

Lolled ‘round the meadows sweet with hay.

Singing, of himself in his merry glee

Whilst worthy men crafted poetry.

Leaves of grass shall soon turn brown,

While other poetry still resounds,

'Tis songs sung of heroic human quest

Not some nameless longing filling WW's breast.

From whence do his strange thoughts bubble up?

Perhaps too much soma in his small cup?

He speaks of the grass and flowers and trees,

But never leaves his dingy cities

And low of cattle, and song of birds,

Are sounds his ears have rarely heard

Alas for poetry that’s a bunch of fudge,

I’d rather be a rich repiner than such a drudge!

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: "Whitman wrote again!"

Ah, well! for real poets some sweet hope lies

That his work be greeted by a printer’s denies;

And, in the here and now, angels may

Keep his “poems” from the light of day!

I hope, if I ever have some institution named after me, that nobody finds this journal of my really heartfelt poetry. Alas, that would be sad.

-- JGW, Ninth-month 19, 1860

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lost Quaker Journals: #8 -- Walt Whitman

From the archives of the Association of Bad Friends. All rights reserved.

Ninth-month 19, 1860 --

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
not Vermonters,
And rejoice that I do not write,
Rhyming poems like JGW -- Moll Pitcher, Barbara Fritchie, Maud Muller, bah...
The saddest words of tongue or pen are not "It might of been" but are
"It not ought to have been" but Whittier penned it anyway.

I loafe and invite my poems,
I lean and loafe and brew my soma, but not for some churchly-hymn.

My poems, every poem of my poems, form'd from this soil, this air,
Not some rhyming dictionary or nights spent playing Scrabble,

Creeds and rules of poetry I hold in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but should be quickly forgotten,
I freeform my lines, no slave to format, I permit myself to speak at every hazard,
Poetry without royalty check (unlike that other Quakerly poet), filled with original energy and my own self!

-Walt Whitman,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Being Attentive -- Two's by Two

After looking at singular things for a few days, I decided I would try to be attentive to "two"s -- and started on Twos-day (okay, bad puns are singular). I thought that being attentive to twos might be a bit more difficult. After all, there are many ones -- but how many twos are there?

As I brushed my hair (yes, I have some hair that still needs tending) in front of Nancy's dresser, I looked down and noticed our senior pictures sitting on her desk. No, not senior as in the age we are now, but senior as in seniors in high school. Two very earnest looking teenagers looked back at me from their formal professional black and white portraits. I said a prayer for those teens as I thought of how their lives were turning out to be far different (speaking for myself at least) than they imagined they would as seventeen year olds. I wished God's blessings for and on them.

As I moved to my chest of drawers to pick up my wallet, keys, and superfluous comb, I saw another set of senior pictures -- those of my sons Ben and Tim. I see those pictures (and another just behind them of the boys as very young boys) every day. But today I saw them afresh and as a possibility for the primary speech of prayer. As I reflected on their lives (Ben as business man, husband and father in Japan and Tim as good, kind Hoosier fellow), I prayed silently -- God knows the words I would speak could I really name the longings of my heart for these young men.

Spotting -- and praying for -- twos has been a bit easier than I thought. Two women just jogged by my office window. Two strangers that I was able to bless with a little prayer, though they, I am sure, will never know that they were being prayed for. Nor do they need to.

The prayers and attentiveness benefit me (singular) as much as them (twos), I am sure. The act of being attentive throughout the day is opening me to a richer prayer life than my usual "Thank you" or "Help me" or other simple prayers. It also feels more "me" than when I try to pray the hours (which is not my tradition) or try some other prayer practices that just don't quite fit the Bill (so to speak).

I wonder what other twos God will place before me to notice this day?

-- Brent

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stay for Pay: Church/Meeting Growth -- The Bad Friends Way

As many Friends, good and Bad, know, I (Brent Bill) have thinking about ways to revitalize Quaker life (not the magazine!) in the 21st century. Thus I've offered my "Modest Proposal" series (visit it here or download a pdf of it here).

But, of course, those writings are very deep and thoughtful and practical. Not much fun, I guess. Association of Bad Friends co-clerk Jacob Stone and I (with help from our Bad spouses) have come up with some other ideas in the past -- such as the inclusion of the Quaker Whoopee Cushion as a way to enliven Meeting and perhaps attract a more fun-loving bunch of Seekers.

Whilst those earlier ideas were great, the newest one from the Research and Development Sub-committee of the Advancement and Outreach Committee of the International Association of Bad Friends for Meeting Expansion and World Domination (Corporate motto: "We see a great people to be snookered") is simply stupendous.

We call it "Stay for Pay."

Simply put, Quaker meetings will begin paying people to attend Meeting for Worship.

Brilliant, isn't it?

Instead of taking an offering during or after worship, local meetings will pass out cash to attendees. Below is the proposed payment schedule:



Attend Meeting for Worship (entire service)


Give good vocal ministry (5-7 on clerks’ scale)


Give great vocal ministry (8-10 on clerks’ scale)


Give outstanding vocal ministry (leaving people crying, laughing, ready to march on DC, etc – without mentioning anything about God or Jesus or John Woolman)*

*unprogrammed meetings only


Give outstanding vocal ministry (leaving people crying, laughing, ready to go door to door on evangelization campaign, etc – without mentioning anything about how God or Jesus is your best Friend and made you rich)*

*programmed meetings only


Vocal ministry (other than the outstanding category, which has obvious criteria) would be rated Olympic style, with three or four clerks holding up signs with their scores for the message.

It's a win/win situation. Meetinghouses will be packed and a family of four will walk away with enough money to go do something enjoyable on Firstday afternoon! Who could ask for more?

And the best part -- it's not going to cost any money! That's right. Every Friends meeting seems to be sitting on some stash of endowment cash that they can't spend. Here's an opportunity to put the proceeds that have been piling up for the past one hundred years in the Phoebe Ann Mosley Memorial Straight Shooters and Outreach to Indigent Orphans of the Spanish American War Fund to work. The legal team of Stone, Bill, Stone, Stone, Stone M O'Gwynn will be glad to help with the details of modifying the conditions of the endowment.

For more information on this amazing program and how your meeting can franchise this opportunity for its use, contact us at 1-666-BAD-QUAK.

-- Brent

On Being Attentive -- Daily Miracles


By Walt Whitman


Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Thanks to Jacob Stone (Walt Whitman scholar and aficionado extraordinaire) for sending this to me.

-- Brent