Friday, August 01, 2014

The Fightin' Quaker, part 2: Humble Stumble

"Get off my land!"  I yelled those words, hands cupped around my mouth, at a bunch of ATVers (all terrain vehicle riders) tearing up and down the creek bed below me.  Then, heart racing along with my mouth, I scrabbled down the hillside to where they were churning up muddy water, driving up and down the creek bank, zipping up into the field where I'd freshly planted tree saplings.

I was pissed.  I was beyond pissed.  I was so mad that I wished I could have just punched one of 'em.  Especially the one who smiled as he ran over my foot while speeding off.  By the time I got back up the hill and called the sheriff to report them, I had a really good mad on.  My sister and her husband were there when it happened -- and love to tell the story of the fire-breathing Quaker pacifist chasing wild riders off his property.

They don't know that it wasn't the first time it happened.

But this isn't about the yahoos who trespass on our property (on horseback, in Jeeps, on foot, with hunting dogs, destroying prairie flowers and grass, trampling trees -- "Oh, this is private property?  We didn't know").  Nope, it's about me and how, despite my aversion and abhorrence of war, and how I'm just not a very peaceful person.

Which is one reason I'm a Quaker today.

It challenges me.  The early Quakers said they lived in that spirit that takes away the desire for all war.  Which I take to mean all violence.  And I don't live in that spirit sometimes.  I mean I'm better than I used to be -- but the heart of the killer that was in me as a young kid still resides (at least partially).  I have the feeling, despite my public testimony against violence, that sometimes there are some people who just need to be slapped.

In fact, in the early days of the Association of Bad Friends (for Quakers who admit that we don't quite measure up to our Friendly ideals), Jacob Stone and I came up with a plan to relieve the tension I -- and I suspect others felt -- while raising money for good Quaker causes.  We proposed instituting a series of Quaker indulgence.

Here's how it could work (with apologies, somewhat to Jacob for stealing his idea and going completely wild with it). Let's say you're like me -- a bad Quaker. I don't mean evil, I just mean, not very good at it. And as a bad Quaker someone has really ticked you off and you'd just love to smack some sense into them. Under the Quaker Indulgences Plan, you could donate $500 (in addition to your regular giving) to your favorite Friendly organization and in return they would issue you an one day indulgence from the Peace Testimony. Then you could skip calling your Lutheran brother-in-law, and just go slap the offender silly yourownself.

Well, of course, while it's funny, it's not helpful. What I want, what I need to is to learn to live in in that spirit that takes away any desire to inflict injury -- whether physical, emotional, intellectual, whatever -- on another person.  I want to know that spirit of which early Friend James Nayler said, "... delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thought to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned;"

That speaks to my untamed, unruly, often hateful heart.  

But how do I start?  And  does the Quaker way help?

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