Embracing mental diversity
As a clinical psychologist, I really appreciated the QuakerSpeak interview with Melody George (“Quakers and Mental Health” QuakerSpeak.com, March). I think the concept of embracing mental diversity might be expanded to include cognitive, emotional, and behavioral diversity. There are so many varieties of experience, and people experience reality in so many different ways. We, the Society of Friends, can benefit from all the different ways that God (or different individuals’ higher powers) speak to them, and then to us.
Deborah W. Frazer
It’s nice to be reminded of our professed commitment to seeing that of God in everyone. It might be even more helpful to have some meetings who have worked well with members who have mental illness struggles tell their stories. I am blessedly a member of a large meeting with many skilled social workers, psychologists, and therapists who have supported a few Friends for many years and helped the meeting set some boundaries and feel compassion. What do small meetings without those skilled members do, I wonder?
The Quaker principles that we often refer to—simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and sustainability of the Earth—all have healing properties (“Meeting for Worship for Healing” by Richard K. Lee and Sarah M. Lloyd, FJ April). If we “mind the Light,” we can sometimes surprise ourselves by how we share with others.
I once spent six months in a rehab hospital after brain surgery. During that stay, the most healing thing for me was finding ways to support and encourage fellow patients. I was trained as a speech-language clinician, and found myself as a patient. I sometimes managed to “get through” to patients who were a challenge to the therapists, because I could share the perspectives of the patients as well as the staff. Two of my preferred strategies were reflective listening; and singing and playing music for and with others. We can learn to build community wherever we are.
Wilton Manors, Fla.
Pause and re-set?
Tabitha Mustafa and Sandra Tamari’s “Palestine and Israel” (FJ, March) gives occasion for a Quaker pause and re-set. Quaker values of empathy and nonviolence are indeed worthy, and we hold to them. Yet when they are applied in a context of great injustice and violence, the effect too often comes out validating the status quo (Palestine being a prime example).
Quakerism was born and raised in a culture of conquest and subjugation of non-Europeans. It’s in our DNA, even when we try our best to do good. We have internal things to work on, even as we continue using our best discernment on what we do in the world.
Mustafa and Tamari give us critical information. Friends Journal is to be commended on providing cutting-edge insights.
As a Palestinian Quaker, I was disheartened with this article. It is hard to disagree with the premise. White Quakers as well as many Quaker institutions still have a lot of work to do to build anti-racist, and decolonial organizations and beloved communities. These dilemmas we face are not only limited to the plight of Palestine, and encompass an array of intersectional issues. What was perplexing to me was the authors’ choices for Quaker organizations that they describe as colonialist and silencing to Palestinians: the Ramallah Friends School (RFS) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
As an alumnus of the Ramallah Friends School, I was very frustrated and even offended at the claims. The Ramallah Friends School is a Palestinian school for Palestinian students. The vast majority of the teachers at the schools are Palestinians, and it is the same for administrators, as well as students. My parents chose the RFS community for me and my sisters because it is a forward-thinking, tolerant, and diverse environment. It was also a school that provided a stellar, values-based education. The values which are espoused by the school are universal values that are rooted in Quakerism and Christianity. They are not values imported from the West; if anything these Christian values were imported to the West from Palestine.
From both my personal experience and study, it seems that there is not a country in existence today that does not have a history soaked in bloodshed, genocide, ethnic cleansing and stolen land. We are, in some ways, such a young and adolescent species, but with such destructive capacities! How we treat each other is so completely related to how we treat the very Earth that sustains us. We are one species; for those who experience the Divine Presence, we are all sisters and brothers, all children of God. While there will never be an end to conflict, if this marvelous, little corner of creation is to flourish with humans as part of the kin-dom, then we must learn, as a species, to do conflict without killing each other. That can only happen if we embrace love as the force more powerful. The process of eliminating conflict leads to elimination the perceived source of the conflict: other human beings.
I find the arguments of Tabitha Mustafa and Sandra Tamari to be very compelling and feel they should receive every element of consideration. We who come from the Western European tradition tend to view world events through the lens of our own regional history, religious convictions, and the mythologies that have risen out of them.
A useful discussion for Quakers might be to examine religious traditions that are based on a conviction that God himself has ordained ownership or colonization of lands and indoctrination of people. It seems to be forgotten that, no matter the inspiration, scriptures are written by human beings: humans beings with a particular agenda. Scripture may contain divine truth—the word of god—but it is not, in its entirety, the word of god. What is and is not scripture has been decided by fallible human beings. If people decide that someone else is without the law, an infidel, saved or not saved, the decision is based on their own desires and not some divine approval or rejection.
Sitting weekly among older worshippers at our Quaker continuing care residence, I well understand Jim Mahood, a reader who requested advice about falling asleep during worship (“Forum,” FJ April). One way to stay awake is to look at each person that you can see—kind of peripherally so you are not staring—and to picture Light gradually surrounding that person. Napping happens at every meeting for worship and your presence is no doubt missed when you are absent. You are probably being held tenderly in the Light by others whether awake or napping.