August Newsletter - A Sampling

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Quakerly or Quackery

by Khyber Daniel

Two Quakers are walking down a road. One is railing against the injustices of society. The other is having a hard time keeping a straight face. The first one stumbles and the other catches him. The complaining Quaker lights up with gratitude, and says, “I am so blessed after the fall.” The second says, “I caught you, there was no fall.” And the first one says, “You are right, there is no original sin.” And that’s how Quakers lived without theology.

This may be the worst joke I have ever written. As Kerry O’Regan points out in the April issue of Friends Journal, it is a Quaker dilemma “Finding Lightness in the Light.” We Quakers have a roaring strong image in our social endeavors, but not so much in the entertainment industry (despite Quaker Judi Dench’s best efforts.) But Quakers do participate rather fully in the absurdities of life. On the one hand, we are free to believe as we believe and to say what we have to say. But talk in the kitchen during Meeting for Worship and you are sure to be strictly eldered. With a small group effort, we expect to reform society. We are matter of fact and quixotic. We admit the windmills of our opposition are not giants, but we tilt at them anyway.

In the popular image, we Quakers are paradoxical, smiling in our regressive garb on our oatmeal box. But personally I find Quaker seriousness is the cloak of “following your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell suggested. We have both joys and concerns, and, as serious as it seems, when we are together, we collectively, have a chuckle on ourselves. Otherwise, it seems our corporate situation is a punch line without a joke. And much of what is thrown against us rebounds. We may expect a dogged travail, but up pops a whimsical illumination or two.