Over the last few weeks, especially since the post about Ministry and Worship, I find myself asking what it is I want this blog to do. There's a temptation to use it as a place to represent Quakers to Pagans, and vice versa... something that can lead to a feeling of needing to be "a credit to my people." There's also a sense of wanting to represent the both/and experience--better, since I don't think there are yet many resources out there for that (and I, at least, don't feel represented by the ones I've found). But there, too, there's a temptation to self-censor a bit, to clean up the picture, and hopefully gain acceptance for both/ands everywhere... Again, this is a kind of pressure to propagandize that I don't need.
Sometimes I want my words here to be a bridge of understanding. I want my Pagan friends to understand enough about my Quaker practices to know that, when I start talking about their importance in my life, I am _not_ preaching the gospel--something we've most of us been so bludgeoned with over the years that even some of my best friends have mistaken my words for more of the same on occassion, a painful experience for me and for them. I'd like my Pagan friends to understand that, when I talk about experiences in meeting or my sense of my life as a Quaker, that's no different than when Maureen discusses priestessing for Aphrodite, or Macha talks about her relationship with Brighde, or someone who has just discovered seidr or some other spiritually transformative practice talks about that. It's not proseletyzing, guys... it's talking through important personal experiences with those we love and trust. Maureen doesn't expect me to become a priestess of Aphrodite, and, though Macha would undoubtedly be a source of boundless help were I to discover a need to become closer to Brighde, she'll wait for Brighde to call me, if She's going to. That's just how Pagans work. Yet, when I discuss my Quaker life, that presumption--that I am not prescribing my religious life for everyone--isn't always there for me among other Pagans these days. This is sad, and I feel the loss.
Likewise, I really wish my Quaker friends could hear more and judge less when I talk of my Pagan life. Hmm. That's not exactly it. I mean, when I do occassionally run into the minority of Quakers in my world who take pains to immediately disabuse me of the notion that I could possibly be a "real" Quaker, yeah, I'd really like them to stop and do that Quaker listening thing I'm learning about. I don't think eldering means rushing to judgement, and I have certainly experienced that. But the real issue, for me, that I sometimes want this blog to take care of, is dealing with the moments when, in the middle of a open discussion with another Quaker, I'll say or do something that is apparently so alien that it just does not compute. There's this look I've seen cross the faces of my friends at Mt. Toby, and which I can readily imagine crossing the faces of Quaker readers of this blog... I think of it as the, "Oh, no--is she going to pee on the carpet?" look. In fairness, it's not the same as being judged. But it's not, I'm fairly sure, my imagination. It's when I've said or done something that's "non-Q"--a kind of dreadful faux pas. Often, it's when I've made a joke--something Pagans so often do in the face of the sacred, and Quakers apparently don't ever do. I'd love for my Quaker friends to understand where I'm coming from in those moments.
I'd also love, in the moments when I'm discussing my Pagan experiences with Quaker friends, not to have the similar expression cross their faces when I am, in seriousness, trying to explain the experience of Paganism, perhaps in answer to a question they have asked. I vividly remember one early discussion with a much-admired friend in my meeting, when either Peter or I mentioned the polytheism of Paganism, and how the Friend broke off the discussion, saying, "That's too wierd for me--I'm sorry, I just can't take this in right now." It was not said in a spirit of cruelty--in fact, there was humor--something I could appreciate and relate to--in the remark and how it was given. But, well, it did sting. I wouldn't mind not having quite so much to explain that I overwhelm my listeners before I even get out of the background explanations.
And I'd like to be writing the experience of EveryQuaker... to have this blog reflect my unfolding as a Quaker, in terms Quakers of whatever blend or background may be able to recognize. I don't think there's nearly enough out there about the process of being changed by entering into this particular practice--maybe because so many people have, for so long, gotten through it to the other side that it's now old hat for those who, unlike me, went through it years ago. (Paganism, by contrast, as a new movement, is replete with "coming home" stories. The stories of being transformed by becoming Pagan are practically our dominant genre.)
These are all kinds of mission, though. And, perhaps because I see this blog as a kind of Quaker practice, I think I want it to be much less pre-processed than that. I'd like my blog to stay close to the root... not as if I were speaking in meeting, but maybe as if I were taking part in a worship sharing.
I don't think I acheive that level of truth telling here very often. Though I admire it in the blogs of others, when I find it there. More--I'm brought to an important, deep place when I find it in others' blogs. Perhaps because of the practice with keeping close to the root and worship sharing, many of the Quaker blogs I've listed on this page take me there often.
However, I think there's also a need to be ordinary. To let the warts show. To be a work in progress, to self-contradict at times... To speak candidly, but not always from my most centered parts, because, after all, those are _not_ where the struggle is, for anyone. I need, I think, for this to stay part ordinary journal, part discussion with readers and with my multiple spiritual communities... and, heck, partly, a place to play with words. I enjoy writing, after all.
I want to tell the truth here. I also want to write nothing here I would be ashamed to have my mother, my coveners, members of my meeting, or the Old Gods to read... and not to be second-guessing every word and self-censoring my way to a bland acceptability. I want to be brave and truthful.
I think I may also want to fail in that at times. After all, in my life out of print, I often make compromises that make me unhappy. And I want to wrestle with that here. Hey! That's it! I want to be able to wrestle with my truths here. And sometimes I'll get some help from other people who read this blog, and sometimes my struggling may itself be helpful to someone else. I think that's it--that's what I want this blog to do. (For me. Peter is still struggling to figure out what he wants to do with the blog. He may wind up using it mostly to write articles for static content on the main website. We are rather different in our writing process...)
Questions not to try to answer today--how about the relationship of the blog to my teaching career, and the original hope of dealing with possible discrimination there by presenting myself here? And is this way of writing so acutely boring that even my best friends won't read it.