Don't ask yourself what the world needs.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

- Howard Thurman

Accomplished

Monday, 11 February 2008 01:15 am
I just completed something that has been on my plate (and that of [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx) for a few years, and it feels really good.

Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns has long had a commitment to collect the Minutes of Quaker Meetings affirming same-sex unions.

Minutes are a primary document by which a Quaker Meeting will document their discernment of God's will, as agreed upon by the entire Meeting. Different Meetings will have different openings to God, and their Minutes will record their collective understanding at that time.

So these Marriage Minutes are living documents of this discernment. They range back from a document from Illinois in 1974, to one in Australia in 1984 and a number from the late 1980s and many more from the 1990s and on.

A few years ago, I discovered an article in Friends Journal magazine, written by a man in rural Pennsylvania, Wallace Cayard, who reported he had done a complete survey of American Quaker Meetings and whether they had a minute which affirmed same-sex marriages and commitments. He did his survey in 1997 then again in 2004. As far as I can tell this project was entirely done by this elderly man and his wife Leonora.

He sent me a typewritten copy of his report, which looked like it had been done up on an ancient Underwood. He had records for 207 Quaker Meetings. Our group had records for about 100 Meetings at that time.

I've finally gotten around to merging them together and we now have records for 228 Meetings on the web- 128 minutes and 100 names of Meetings without the text of the minutes. Just having the Meeting names for them is a great start; we can send volunteers out to get those. And if someone is googling for information, they might get what they need just from finding the name on our site.

I've got lots of other things to do, but this gives me a pretty great sense of accomplishment, even if I should really be in bed right now.

And also, it's rather touching to be editing a document that includes statements such as:

"We joyfully affirm our willingness as a Meeting to sanctify celebrations of marriage for both same and opposite gender couples. We intend to follow the good order of Friends in arriving at clearness for all couples who are led to unite under our loving care. We call upon the state to give the same legal recognition to same and opposite gender marriages."

That, from Brunswick Maine Monthly Meeting. Thank you Friends...

I voted.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008 02:35 pm
I had meant to join Democrats Abroad. In fact, I thought, twice, that I already had. This was in error, but I was still able to vote today. (Democrats Abroad contribute 7 delegates to the US primary process. Republicans don't get to; too bad for them I suppose.)

The voting space was in the new UU Church at the south end of town. It wasn't really so awful driving down there for 5pm; less so than I expected.

Voting only took a few minutes- there were about 25 people in the process of voting. The volunteer organizers for the local Democrats Abroad were a retired university prof and his wife.
I think when I'm retired I could enjoy doing something like that.

One young guy who sat at the same table as me when I filled in my ballot asked out loud, "Huh- I thought John McCain was on the ballot." I exchanged an amused glance with the 50ish woman sitting near us and said to the guy, "No, and that's... because he's a Republican." Yeesh.

I talked with the UU minister after I voted. She said John Shelby Spong will be visiting the area to speak, probably in October! He's got useful things to say about broadening Christianity to be a living faith, rather than a historic rule-based one. I've seen him speak before, at a Quaker event in Blacksburg VA in 2005, and I'm hopeful for an interesting visit.

Take That

Friday, 28 December 2007 09:06 pm
This afternoon I went to Westminster Abby, which is close by our hotel, for 5pm Evensong services.  They  were OK, but not as transcendent as I remember the last time we visited.  There was a guest choir, as the regular choir is on holidays.  The sermon and hymn were devoted to the Feast of the Innocents (and no we didn't get to taste any ourselves.  Innocents, that is.)  The skies opened up shortly before the service ended, and when I finally left to walk back to the hotel, a tree-branch fell on me. Not a big one, just a stick. But we'll see if I ever go back there again!
*thud* That's the sound of my butt hitting my office chair, heavily. So glad to be home.

We're home from Wisconsin & FGC Gathering. This was a terrific week for me, enough to make up for the dorm-room beds, the heat, and the chaotic dining-halls. Among other things:

I had a long conversation with some non-theist Quakers, yesterday, who gave me interesting stuff to think about (and a post on that topic is forthcoming). My conversations with you all here, and elsewhere, were quite helpful, for helping me put my thoughts in order, so thanks.

I had a first-rate workshop throughout the week, on the topic of talking about Quakerism with non-Quakers. This, too, merits a post, hopefully this week.

Our Queer Quaker group has joined the 21st century and agreed to put our newsletters online (behind password protection). We also need to revamp our contact-lists, a project which was unfortunately stalled when the F/friend managing it died this last February. I have a fair bit of work to do on these, as the website co-manager (with the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx). At the moment, I'm wondering about pre-existing services to handle the mailing-list and donations (such as JustGive.org- except we're a religious non-profit, and not a 501(c)3.) If you happen to have any suggestions for mailing-list managers who might also handle subscriptions (by credit card or check), I'm all ears; otherwise I'll be doing some research this week.

[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I sought out two very dear friends for advice on two very different topics, which was rewarding. I do feel blessed for these friends as well as for for our many other wise friends. Very blessed. Lots of neat conversations. There may be a few more posts that percolate from some of these conversations, though I'm not planning any of them right now.

Finally, there was an interesting talk by Marcus Borg, a liberal Christian scholar who spoke at one of the evening plenaries on Biblical interpretation. If I get caught up, I may have something to say about him, but no promises.
What a fun day. How odd it is, that having just concluded I was probably an introvert, in a conversation in [livejournal.com profile] frankie_ecap's journal, that I had such an energizing day being unabashedly extroverted.

The best part for me was the unexpected ease of connecting with people. Lots of people were curious about the mechanics of how Quakers operated; and I found that LJ conversations with you smart lot were very helpful at putting my responses into useful language. You know how sometimes, you're teaching something and you can see exactly where the other person is at by the questions they're asking? It only happened a few times, but they were verra cool.

Now, I have huge problems with prostel prosthetiz prostheletizing. (...see?) Ultimately I think that word describes a form of violence on another person's psyche, based on manipulation... and patriarchalist religious assumptions.

I have to do some thinking about what doesn't bug me in the realm of talking about religion with strangers. (Maybe it's the fact that at this festival we had a huge whack of common ground at the outset of the conversations, and a fair motivation to learn.) Yeah. I'll keep thinking about it.

The festival's setup was: a bandshell at the bottom of the hill in the local park. In a straightish line up the hill, a double column of tables, each for an organization or vendor. The groups included the local Humanists (who organized and funded the event), Falun Dafa and the Bahai (the only two other explicitly religious groups besides the Quakers!), one anti-domestic-violence group, a housing co-op raising money for Amnesty, the Green Party (on my one side), Community Money (on my other side), and [livejournal.com profile] pnijjar's Fair Vote Ontario across the way from our table. It seemed to me that there were fewer hemp and craft vendors than I remember from last year, which was fine by me.

There was bright sun all day, and it was brutal. I'm glad for the sunscreen I put on, for the tree that provided partial shade, and for the sun umbrella we could move around for better shade. I went through 3 litres of water, probably a day's record for me. Plus another 500ml over dinner.

The organized program started around noon. They alternated bands and speakers at the bandshell. The sound setup was bad: the bands were audible all the way up the hill, but the speakers were only audible to the lower 1/3 of the tables. Which meant the majority of people at the festival couldn't hear the speakers. I asked one of the organizers about this; he asked the sound guy, and the sound guy said that was as good as he could do. I hope this can be fixed for next year.

I was the first presenter. I was preceded by a band, who played fairly good electronica. 20 people in the audience when I got there, and maybe 10 when I finished; and 5 of those were other Quakers. But, near the beginning when I looked up, there were a few dozen people standing a way up the hill, around the tables, listening.

The only other speakers I heard were [livejournal.com profile] pnijjar, who did a fine job explaining the Ontario Voter Referendum on proportional representation in just ten minutes, something I could never have done. I also heard a speech by a (30s-ish) woman begging everyone to reach out to teenagers, to look past the violent media they consume and try and guide them to better options, and don't write them off because they look scary. She seemed more passionate than many of the people I saw. I really would've preferred being able to hear more of the speakers.

At the Quaker table, we had anywhere from 3 to 5 people around at any time; a total of 9 of us over the day. I was surprised at how much difference that made, just for myself, compared with last year when I was alone for at least half of the day. Only off-and-on visitors to the booth. But we seemed to hit a critical mass of visitors a few times, when conversations would draw in other visitors. That was neat. I believe I saw the same happening across the way, at the Fair Vote Ontario table. I didn't see it happen at the Green Party tent.

My favourite moment was mid-afternoon, when I saw a guy with a Perl tee-shirt walk past. So I jumped up and accosted him. It turns out he's a friend of [livejournal.com profile] elbie_at_trig and [livejournal.com profile] thingo. He came over and we had a wonderful wide-ranging conversation for about half an hour (and I really need to learn more about Martin Buber's I and Thou, which he compared to Quakerism's "answering that of God in each other". Also I need to email his girlfriend some information about google labs and public-transit..) Elbie came by once or twice for a chat and eventually dragged him away. ;)

I suppose I could have more to say about the festival but I feel done for this post.
I've just added an LJ feed for the one and only [livejournal.com profile] peterson_tscano. If you've not read his blog, he's a Queer Quaker Performance Activist who's on the forefront of all sorts of wonderful things at the intersection of gender, identity, and faith.

[cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] queerinterfaith and [livejournal.com profile] quakers].
I've not read d.'s travelogues today (heck, I've not caught up on his 15-post set last week) so apologies if there's overlap.

Yesterday was great )

But today kicked ass )

Today

Thursday, 6 April 2006 04:45 pm
I woke up this morning to chirping birds- a variety I don't think we have in North America, or at least they've got a different dialect here. We took a double-decker bus into town, whose route included most of Abbey Road. I happened to see a [livejournal.com profile] gmaps_sights post from two weeks ago with the Beatles Abbey Road crossing from above (!) so I think I recognized it when we rode over. Hee.

Today's itenary included: back to Trafalgar Square, walking down to Parliament, the Queen's Horse Guards station, 10 Downing Street and Westiminster Abbey, to London Bridge, along a river-walk to London Tower, looking across the water at The Eye (the gargantuan ferris-wheel on the waterfront) and deciding we'd go and take it before we leave.

Next, up to Harrods, which turns out to be the neatest department store I've ever browsed. More ritzy than Macy's, and considerably less packed with people. I couldn't afford to buy a pencil there, but I did OK browsing. There's a stuffed animal recreation of the Globe Theatre on floor 4 that was neat. I wasn't even treated snootily by Harrods staff, which I was vaguely afraid of.

Lunch was across the street from Harrods, where we had tasty sandwiches that weren't too shockingly expensive, and there was great people-watching from our window seats.

We walked in Hyde Park, and made our way to Speaker's Corner. The first disappointment of the day: there were no speakers at all! Hmph. I thought about standing and making a harrangue about the lazy people who didn't show up to give their Speaker's Corner harrangues. Dan convinced me against that though.

Eventually back down to Westminster Abbey, where d. had the bright idea of going to hear their church service and see the inside without springing the 10 pounds that tourists usually pay. The evensong service was beautiful, and oh gods, what a beautiful church. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable, actually- and not even because there are some number of Important People entombed under the floors. It's hard to explain, but the opulance just sort of screamed out "power" and not in a necessarily good way. Still, very glad we went.

Back at the hotel, we went a bit further up the road to dinner at a South Asian restaurant named "Elephant Walk", which served us delicious dosai.

I'm definitely enjoying myself here. Wish I had two weeks. (Well; I could've had two weeks if I weren't going to be inconviencing my boss and paying to stay in hotels for an additional week. Ah well. It'll still be here for next time.)
This afternoon I went to a talk on The Great Transformation, the latest book by Karen Armstrong. It was an OK talk, though quite short. She started talking at 2pm, started taking questions at 2:30; and finished up for book-signing at 3pm. I think perhaps it was the shortest talk I've ever paid money to go to. It's a shame because it would've made a better talk with another 30 minutes. Ultimately I decided I would read her book, but I'd wait for it to come to the library, since I didn't feel like plunking $40 on it.

The topic was the time-period from 900 BCE to roughly 200 BCE, called "the Axial Age" by historians because of its transforming effect on civilization. The time-period saw the rise of philosophical rationalism in Greece, monotheism in Israel, Confucianism and Daoism in China; and Hinduism and Buddhism in India. Her talk was about the major similarities between these religions and philosophies. While they had different emphases, her thesis is that all argued for the importance of compassion over violence, the importance of dropping one's ego, and of working on seeing reality as it is, as fully as possible.

These faiths and philosophies also share a strong notion that it's a lot of work to do these things, but one will reach a more enlightened state the more one works at them.

She said that Western institutionalized religion does an awful job at presenting the teachings of its prophets, instead emphasizing the creedal rules that have built up after the prophets had left. She said we don't need new prophets or sages; we've got quite enough who we've been ignoring already.

She suggests that Christian churches are bound up in institutional ego, a sorry state that is opposite all of the prophets' teachings. She quoted a Catholic thinker, I wish I remembered who, saying "while you cannot define God, if you travel in the diametric opposite direction from ego, you will find God there as well."

She spent a while talking about the importance of the golden rule, which she said originated with Confucious. The last time she spoke here, in 2004, she talked about Hillel, the great Jewish Rabbi, who was asked by a Gentile to stand on one foot and recite the whole of the Torah. He stood on one foot and said, "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. That is the entirety of the Torah. The rest is commentary." She said the Buddha was asked what one thing a disciple could do every day, all the time; he answered that thing is to follow the golden rule. So, this was her example of the one thing we should take to heart most closely.

While I agree with this statement, she made it very clumsily, in such a way as to confuse the golden rule with "don't offend others." I have a big problem with this. Not offending others is a good secondary rule, along with "be nice". But on a deep level, sometimes we need to be offended. If I'm faced with a learning experience that includes offending me, I'd prefer being offended to not learning. Besides, being offended just bruises my ego, which shouldn't be in the way, to begin with.

A talk I heard earlier this month on CBC radio put this argument very well, that compassion is important, but it doesn't stop at being "nice"- it also requires empathy, holding both your perspective and the other person's perspective to figure out the compassionate response.

The larger problem with her thesis as a recommendation for society today is that on the whole, people are too lazy to take the time and energy. People are accustomed to the lite version of faith and philosophy that doesn't require doing anything challenging, especially outside the hour they've allotted to it once a week. It's tremendously hard work to be compassionate, and I don't think people can do it very effectively with our civilization in the state it's in.

Fish Can't Fly

Sunday, 26 March 2006 10:46 pm
It doesn't happen very often that I go to our favourite video place, and someone I know is staring back at me from the cover of a new release.

Fish Can't Fly is a documentary about people who tried to change their sexual orientations through "Ex-Gay" ministries. And, obviously, what a disaster it was for these people. The film is supposed to present a good show of how they come out of the hell to something holistic and integrated.

Peterson, the guy who [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I know who's on the cover, does a pretty cool one-man theatre piece (called "Doin' Time at the Homo No-Mo Halfway House"), so I'm looking forward to watching this.

Speaking of which, I'm going to do that now, instead of writing up more of my weekend. :)

sweet & savoury

Monday, 26 September 2005 07:05 am
da: (grey)
This morning the wind and rain are making a nice "shush"ing sound outside the window, which would be calming except I've been trying to sleep for the last hour, unsuccessfully, so now they sound somewhat sad and accusing. Long day ahead, I expect.

Yesterday, however, was delightful. [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I went into Toronto to celebrate our 9th anniversary together. Lunch... and theatre )

This 'n' that

Thursday, 9 December 2004 06:21 pm
Today I drove d. to the train station before the crack of dawn, then went home to prepare for a meeting. It's remarkable how much more awake I was (at 8:45) when I'd started the day two hours earlier. And it was *nice* to watch the sunrise. Quite possibly because it's a rare occurance for me.

I'll have some more practice at that in the next few days; on Saturday we're catching an early flight to Baltimore for the memorial for our friend who died two weeks ago. But more happily, on Tuesday, we're going on vacation for a week, which I'm looking forward to quite a bit- I like travelling with dan, he's a good road-companion, and usually we have the same pattern of what we want to do while on trips.

Another thing to be grateful for is dry December days when I can bike to the photo store to drop off my sack of 0s and 1s to be turned into digital prints. The exercise did me good; it meant I could be productive this afternoon instead of sluggish (which usually happens when I'm up early).

You probably knew this already, but you can get custom-printed M&Ms. In 16 colors and two different messages. I think it works out to about 6 cents a candy. I'll never buy 'em, but I think it makes me happy that the option exists, just in case.
da: (black)
28 year olds should not die. Especially not those whose wedding we took part in, just a year ago, and who we only got to see twice a year.

Not fair.

(no subject)

Monday, 20 September 2004 10:34 pm
Wim Wenders was in Toronto for TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and I didn't plan ahead to go to his film. Dang.

I discovered Wim Wenders at school; the first of his films I saw was "Tokyo-Ga", a tribute to the director Yasujiro Ozu and to Japan. I didn't know the director, but it was a beautiful film. Shortly afterward, I saw Faraway So Close and Wings of Desire; then later, Until the End of the World. I'm not a raving adict, but his films are beautiful and occasionally when I'm down I'll remember some of his images to cheer me up.
I'm especially bummed since the paper reports that his new film, Land of Plenty has gotten great reviews (at TIFF and a nominiation for top prize at the Venice Film Festival). It's a more linear film than Wings of Desire or Faraway So Close; it's a modern examination of disillusionment in America, through the eyes of a young missionary and her uncle, a Viet Nam War veteran.

The Globe and Mail reports that he's so far failed to find a North American distributor for the film, so it will probably be a while until I get to see it.

According to the paper:


"After living as a U.S. resident in Los Angeles for the past eight years, he is in the midst of packing up and moving to New York. He is passionate about his adopted country as only someone who has ended up in a place out of choice, rather than accident, can be.

He begins our conversation by talking about the characters in his film -- before almost immediately moving on to the state of the nation. "Lana has a very innocent, almost childlike faith in God and love and being in love and the power of love, whereas Paul is not really a spiritual person. You might say his religion is America," says Wenders. "And America over the last few years has become very similar, in that nationalism has become a kind of religion. It's almost like Christianity these days can only become defined by certain right-wing politics.

"For me as a Christian, it's really revolting, and it's one of the reasons I made this film: I wanted to show that as a Christian you have to have different priorities. As a Christian, the idea of a pre-emptive war was out of the question. As a Christian, you have to be in solidarity with the poor and the exploited, and I didn't really see that in America any more. In the Bush administration some of the most basic Christian values have been perverted."

[...]

"I've heard from many American buyers who have seen it here, and they're all very insecure how to market it. Apparently the Christian message and the liberal message are considered incompatible. I've been told that this is a big marketing issue. Christian ideas are so occupied by the right wing in America that they don't know what to do with it."

The fact that a Christian audience and a politically liberal audience are seen as being mutually exclusive in today's America is the kind of revelation that drives Wenders nuts, both as an artist and a Christian.


I can see where he's coming from; the world today could use a Dr. MLK Jr. or a Dorothy Day; somebody with moral authority to stand up to the Christian Right (which is no more Christian than it is Right).

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