Quakers and Sustainability

About what Quakerism as a way of life and movement can contribute to transition through social turbulence created by energy scarcity, climate change, and social injustice.


Fall 2008. Taking stock

There is a saying you can tell a person's priorities by what he does more than what he says. I am pulling inward, enjoying having few personal contacts, living alone. I have the new circle of acquaintances in the Dundas Sustainable Lifestyles Project, a thing I started in a moment of inspiration from a talk by Mike Nickerson last fall. This is my new circle of contact, that certainly centres around sustainable living. We mostly see the future as grim, no way out of the perfect storm bearing down on us. (financial markets worldwide are in chaos as I write this, maybe melting down into a 1930's style depression, we'll see.) Suzuki quotes leading ecologist that 80% of species are going to go extinct due to GHG from our human ways.

I did have a 20-something friend I spent time with who could not handle the 'grim' part of my assessment of the world problematique, the scenario we are living where all assumptions from the past are suspect or outright useless. He didn't like the pessimistic ring to my summing it all up as GRIM. I came across a bit of Buddhist writing last nite that put the words in place for me. It is not important whether the future is assessed to be GRIM or ROSY, it just IS, so get on with living it. GET ON WITH IT. Sort of like Nike says, "JUST DO IT". That is what I say we need to do as Quakers, or anyone, spiritually inclined, attuned or adept, or not. It could be a secular world that has the most likelihood of surviving the 'long emergency' into post-carbon, postpeak, postpostmodern living. I'm trying it on for size.

I'm not very outwardly or inwardly quakerly these days. Maybe I should hang out on a blog somewhere and wail into the night with the rest. I'm still recorded in the ministry of chaplaincy in CYM. They don't do any oversight or support so what difference does that make! The chaplaincy started in prison work in 2003-4 but morphed to climate/community preparedness and now local food security. I may be a quaker community chaplain, but hardly an exemplary one!

I have sharply downscaled my involvement in my meeting, Hamilton, the outdoor camp (NeeKauNis) and certainly CYM. I am now the youngest (at 54) regular attender at Hamilton Mtg. 10 years ago I was so keen to do outreach (remember Quaker Outreach Forum on Yahoo) and get a new generation rooted in ourmeeting, but my ways were not the ways of the meeting. I quit trying, which is not really what I like to be, a quitter. It is a bit of a flaunt too, to be straight about it. "There, I told you so, meeting comatose cuz you didn’t' listen to me."

There are many days when it is hard to 'walk cheerfully, answering that of G-D in every person' but so was it for Fox. At least I don't have anyone beating on me, putting me in jail for months or chasing me from town to town!

On to the sustainble future~ (a good biography is the recent See You in a Hundred Years, by Logan Ward, 2007. He and his wife take a stab at living as tho they had no access to any technology or convenience of the last 100 years. Maybe that is indeed what we are facing.


At 11:18 AM, Blogger Liz Opp said...


First of all, I will say that my heart is heavy as I read this from you. (I only saw your post because of QuakerQuaker.)

Second, I can say to you that I have had to face my own major disappointment, disillusionment, and sadness with my monthly meeting, around similar concerns: the quality of eldership, the lack of spiritual accountability that I was yearning for, the secularization of parts of the tradition.

Third, I want you to know that I have thought of you many times over the last 4-6 years or more, despite the fact that I don't know that we ever spoke directly to each other:

We both were serving on FGC's Central Committee at the time, and you had made a remark that you were in discernment about continuing to serve (or such is my memory), given the amount of travel involved and the pollution caused by it.

I have not forgotten you for that, and it has impacted me ever since.

But I write for another reason:

At a time when I was thinking of leaving the meeting, I briefly put aside my own disappointment and raised up to God the question

Am I released from this meeting? Am I released from attending worship?

The answer that came back was No.

So I continued to worship for another 18 months or so, and then things began to change. Or maybe not "things," but maybe me: I began to change.

So I would ask:

Does God release you from the meeting, from Hamilton, from CYM?

How do you know?

I would also offer this:

My partner recently told me about a spiritual condition called "acedia," and your post certainly reminds me of this dark night.

She had come across this word through the writing of Kathleen Norris and her most recent book Acedia & Me.

Here's an excerpt that I found online:

At its Greek root, the word acedia means the absence of care. The person afflicted by acedia refuses to care or is incapable of doing so. When life becomes too challenging and engagement with others too demanding, acedia offers a kind of spiritual morphine: you know the pain is there, yet can't rouse yourself to give a damn. That it hurts to care is borne out in etymology, forcare derives from an Indo-European word meaning "to cry out," as in a lament. Caring is not passive, but an assertion that no matter how strained and messy our relationships can be, it is worth something to be present, with others, doing our small part. Care is also required for the daily routines that acedia would have us suppress or deny as meaningless repetition or too much bother....

Whether or not you continue among Friends, Ian, I pray that you will continue to seek God's guidance and seek the spiritual care and nurture you deserve.

While it's been a frustrating, hair-pulling experience for me--to "coach" some Friends on how to provide me with the eldership I sought so I could in turn be eldered--the fruits are beginning to be harvested and I am lighter in my heart for it.

You are in my thoughts.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Mia Arland said...

Ian my friend, I've been browsing the internet on sustainable lifestyles and came across this here. I see it as a snapshot of where you and Meeting were at 3 years ago. I know Meeting has changed, and I'm sure things have for you as well. Come check us out sometime. In the meantime, know that I am filled with admiration and appreciation for the excellent work you are doing. Wilf


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