One mark of stories that matter is in the way that they connect with their reading audience. Reading the stories in this issue, I found myself connecting in different ways with each of them. Some of these paths of connection were comforting to me. Some made me smile. Some made me shake my head in recognition and bemusement. Some made me cringe a little bit in realizing that the author has called out my own unexamined behaviors and illuminated an area where I could stand to change.
I see myself in Elizabeth De Sa’s “Inner Peace, Outer Peace” (p. 14)—I’m “Ann,” sometimes quietly annoyed by ministry by other Friends that doesn’t seem to speak to me or arouse anything but disinterest. Even when just keeping my mouth shut is the polite and conflict-averse thing to do, Elizabeth challenges me to learn about Nonviolent Communication and think about how I might apply it to situations in my own life that I would not necessarily think of as conflicts. After all, if integrity is an “alignment between our inner lives and outer lives,” as Elizabeth puts it, then grinning and bearing it actually works against my own integrity.
Like one of the young women Madeline Schaefer interviewed for “Bringing Our Bodies to the Light” (p. 22), I have wondered whether in Quakerism I am seeing a community that exercises an active neglect of its own physical health that is detrimental to the fullest expression of our gifts.
When we christened this issue “Activists vs. Mystics vs. Pragmatists,” we had a spirited lunch-table debate about whether the “versus” was justified. We all could agree that these three labels conveyed recognizable behaviors and stereotypes of Quakers. But are these strains that describe our modes of engagement with the inner and outer worlds truly in competition? Are they so mutually exclusive that it is fair to set them apart in contrast? While we often use the word “versus” to mean “against” or “in conflict with,” in its Latin origin it means “turned, so as to face (something).” I think of the way we Quakers sit in worship, where we can see each other’s faces. We can perceive the different ways we are. We can see how we are different lenses through which the light shines.
I read pieces from Lucy Duncan (p. 6), Jeff Perkins (p. 8), and Richard Hathaway (p. 11) and query myself: where do I tend to fall in the outward, “witnessing” expression of my core testimonies? Is there a right place for me on the spectrum that encompasses, say, silent vigils, direct protest, and shareholder advocacy? What’s clear in reading all of these stories is that each of the modes of witness this issue highlights—activist, mystic, and pragmatist—has an important place in the toolkit of the kingdom of God that Friends are building together. Thanks for being a part of this exploration with me.
Yours in peace,