Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vuvuzela for God

RantWoman is one of those Friends who prepares for Meeting for Worship by steeping herself in her local NPR station's Sunday offerings. RantWoman is aware that there are different schools of thought about whether this practice is an appropriate discipline; RantWoman generally thinks of it as applying her faith full-bore to the problems of the world, though RantWoman does from time to time permit herself to ask whether she is in danger of drowning in the worldly backwash.

Sunday NPR fare tends to be a rather stern load of woes, strife, warfare, and people finding all manner of ways to be considerably less than godly. This is punctuated by bits of provocative commentary and culture moments from several artistic genres. And then there is Vuvuzela!

What is vuvuzela? Vuvuzela is a kind of stadium horn loved and passionately clung to by soccer fans throughout South Africa and scorned and derided by television networks worldwide. Apparently a crowd of committed fans hooting away with vuvuzela creates this wall of buzzing that just does not play well with broadcast sound standards. RantWoman's low-budget radio may or may not have done vuvuzela justice. Television networks worldwide have implored FIFA, soccer's international governing body to ban vuvuzela and FIFA, sensitive to possible charges of recolonization or colonialism or some such has so far stood fast.

RantWoman this week had the sort of Sunday where a whole bunch of things that needed to line up lined up with only minor equivocation. The biggest thing that needed to line up was some mindless tasks that perfectly filled a block of time between RantWoman's other errand and a delightful organ / choir concert at St James cathedral, the opening event for a regional American Guild of Organists meeting.

RantMom had seen the article in the paper and mentioned it in one of her daily phone check-ins. RantWoman even looked up enough bus connections to get RantMom there despite coming from a different direction than RantWoman. True to RantMom form, fretful about missing the last run of the transfer route, RantMom had arrived at the cathedral a whole hour early. RantMom phoned up RantWoman on that miracle called cellphones and was reassured that RantWoman still planned to appear closer to the agreed time.

RantMom had faint hopes of seeing a bunch of church organists she knows from previous parts; RantWoman suspects they might have missed opening night due to travel time. RantWoman eventually found RantMom a couple conference-related phone numbers but thinks RantMom probably did not follow up further. RantWoman also sent RantMom the whole list of conference organ recitals at a tour of area churches and pipe organs. The itinerary, not surprisingly includes no Quaker churches or meetinghouses. In any case, RantMom is unlikely to persuade one of her church lady buddies to go play event stalker. Probably no one would even notice and Mom might even connect up with friends.

But RantWoman is getting ahead of herself slightly. The real point of this post, the reason for all this verbiage is that the opening chords of the concert, the artistic ministrations of a talented performer wielding the might of two pipe organs sounded for a few brief seconds just like vuvuzela from the morning radio. The impression quickly dissolved into the miracle of making a whole cathedral into a musical instrument, no amplification, no electronic wail, just the marvel of acoustics and design and composition. Vuvuzela indeed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Safest Sex Offender on the Planet

The two announcements below appear every week in our weekly announcement sheet:
• Since 2002 our worshipping community has included an individual who is a convicted, non-predatory sex offender. He has graduated from the treatment portion of the alternative sentencing program, continues treatment voluntarily, and remains under supervision by the Department of Corrections. We are a community working to provide a welcoming spiritual home for survivors of abuse as well as this offender. We are a safer place for both children and adults because of the awareness and education that this ministry has produced. He is within view of a chaperone at all times while on our grounds. He may be worshipping with us at 9:30 on 2nd and 4th Sundays and at 11:00 on 1st and 3rd Sundays. When he is here at other times, the office will be informed 24 hours in advance and signs will be posted on doors to the meeting house. If you have questions we encourage you to ask a member of either the Oversight or Worship & Ministry Committee. For more information see yellow informational flyer on information table outside office.

• Survivors of sexual abuse working to support each other spiritually may meet in the Quaker House living room on 2nd and 4th Sundays following the rise of 11:00 meeting. To confirm schedule, call ...

RantWoman has been discerning with her Meeting for the entire interval of this ministry. In fact, RantWoman sort of ducked and made a key introduction early in the story. At times, given this beginning, RantWoman feels a twinge of regret for not going out of her way to be on deeper terms with "our sex offender." At this point he and RantWoman sort of nod when we pass by each other; RantWoman keeps him in her prayers. RantWoman gets updates through the community chatter grapevine. RantWoman says prayers of forebearance and centering every time our Meeting must address some of the regular and intermittent requirements we ask of ourselves and each other in connection with this ministry. And RantWoman feels her plate is already full and therefore does not exactly rush to add more.

RantWoman supposes she could say "Thank you," thank you for being so forthright. Thank you for sharing the minutia of your previous evaluations and court requirements. Thank you for bearing with us as we wriggle and wrangle about every request to be active in a new way. Thank you for simply going forward. Thank you for forcing us to create space for many kinds of conversation that would not have come up without your request of our community. Thank you for being one of the catalysts for me to name and stash the background for some of my own psychic twitches.

RantWoman could say stuff like that. RantWoman certainly thinks of stuff like that. Then RantWoman thinks of other people's experiences, of realities they can no more escape than RantWoman, thanks to her meeting's ministry can escape thinking of this person's past.

Some of the time RantWoman has found herself thinking "Do we really need to know...?" Some of the time RantWoman thinks of the lists of process and requests and reports and thinks her Meeting is trying to play God. That is just because we know where one sex offender we know about is and when most assuredly does not mean anyone is protected from all possible danger.

Some of the time by now, RantWoman is heartily sick of everything to do with this ministry. RantWoman sometimes finds herself especially vexed that time devoted to this ministry tends to have the offender's name on it more than the names or challenges of Friends who have been victimized. RantWoman thinks there are also good reasons for this and still struggles with how to represent these people in the time needed. In fact, RantWoman feels acutely that being the public face of bad circumstances is its own burden, most assuredly not to be imposed unless people themselves willingly take it up for one reason or another.

Sometimes RantWoman is unbelievably proud. Some of the time RantWoman is incredibly grateful to members of her Meeting who are much closer to this ministry than is RantWoman. Some of the time RantWoman hovers in the shadows, thinking of moments where her own psyche feels what would sensibly be labelled collateral damage from others' circumstances. RantWoman actually does not feel a clear need to speak openly of these circumstances and certainly not all of them; RantWoman is thoroughly grateful to have confidential fora to touch the topics when she wants to.

RantWoman also sees her reticence through a veil of uncertainty, uncertainty about others who do not speak up, uncertainty around the edges of many stories, and the kind of uncertainty that bidden or not prefers to leave room in the conversation not only for the pronouncements of psychology but also for movements of the Divine. This is another way of saying RantWoman does not necessarily think every wrinkle of the soul needs to be dragged out in words for there to be community or transformation or some of those other blessings that are supposed to come with faith. Furthermore, RantWoman is grateful actually that this tangle of contradictory thinking helps keep the whole situation from getting wrapped up in and choked by vapid glibness.

Despite all of these paradoxes, all this ambiguity, RantWoman can also say with considerable confidence that her Meeting may have one of the safest sex offenders on the planet: we know who he is. Those of us who feel able walk alongside his challenges of health and work and living situation. No one is going to let him watch their children. Our meeting has taken many other measures to protect our children. Vexatious as some discussions still remain, RantWoman thinks the ongoing work is another reminder not to slack off on any of the aspects, attention to spiritual support for an offender, support, sharing and respectful boundaries for people who have been victimized, and sensible protection in new situations.

RantWoman knows there are many other sex offenders out there and for that matter many others who have in one way or another fallen short of the glory of God. RantWoman knows that walking alongside the suffereings of many of these people is tremendous work; yet RantWoman also thinks this is vital to community spiritual life and recommends the journey to other Meetings or congregations as well.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blog Roll Please

RantWoman is experimenting with the mechanics of running her blog. RantWoman has decided to add a bunch more wordy features and has been testing out how to find the headings and other page elements that help her screen reader skip around and read only what RantWoman wants.

RantWoman is also quite self-centeredly collecting some links that she might want to access easily even when away from her own beloved customized machine.

RantWoman is aware that the result of these recent efforts is very wordy. RantWoman will at some point put in some more pictures and graphics. Well, here, RantWoman is soliciting help from readers: do you have any pictures that make you think of something about God, faith, Quakerism, personal and collective action grounded in faith? Post a link and a description of the visual content. If you want also post an explanation of why what you sent makes you think of one of the above themes. Then RantWoman will as lead, repost and elaborate from her perspective. Think of it as a visual Worship Sharing never mind visual challenges.

RantWoman supposes some will note a certain amount of decidedly non-Quakerly content. RantWoman knows she is not required to explain such but since the point of sharing the journey, she will, um, share the journey.

Our Daily Bread: lots of Presbyterians in the family. If we all read the same Daily Bible Verse, sometimes it creates openings. If RantWoman puts it in her blog, she will in fact be more likely to read it in the first place. RantWoman admits she is thinking about options to add instead or in addition.

The Mormon stuff: This is another experiment, an interfaith one. RantWoman awhile ago discovered that some of her forebears are in fact Mormons. RantWoman is greatly relieved that the most immediate ones found the "freethinking" Presbyterians more to their taste, but RantWoman has zillions of distant Mormon cousins should she ever discern the slightest leading in that direction.
Further Mormon matters: in connection with our Meeting's participation in a local interfaith body, RantWoman also found herself concurring with the then representative that picketing other people's worship services over differences in theology is, well, unseemly. This is a separate point from RantWoman's view of same-sex marriage. RantWoman's Monthly and Yearly Meetings are both on record calling for full civil marriage rights and therefore action in the political realm is a serious matter of differing theology; RantWoman just does not think mindless picketing will create the desired openings here. RantWoman is NOT clear about what to do instead, alas.

The other peacenik stuff: RantWoman is more of a Baptist social action Quaker than the contemplatives of several flavors around her. RantWoman herself has been neglecting some forms of peacemaking of late. Maybe if the stuff is in the blogroll, RantWoman will read it instead of some of the, cough, mindrot she sometimes reads now.

RantWoman is debating about one or two more pleasure threads but she is not necessarily clear on that front and may let her readers find that material other ways. Well, she may.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grieving and Healing

RantWoman's sense of the year is all out of sorts with respect to many around here.

A couple weeks ago during Meeting for Worship, a Friend rose and ministered about how she was so full of gratitude that it felt like November. It was a bright sunny magical summer day and RantWoman wanted to screan "Bite your tongue" lest the ministry summon the dark and grey and soggy of November. Summer is barely here and the world needs its green leafies, not the dark sweet roasted veggies of fall.

More to the point, had worship wanted for additional vocal ministry RantWoman would have ministered about being grateful in whatever season one is grateful and might have ventured to share "For the Beauty of the Earth," a hymn of gratitude RantWoman was so deeply grateful to have had sung at her father's memorial years ago.

RantWoman felt equally out of sorts about a recent effort to hold a meeting for grieving and healing in her Meeting. RantWoman would not have minded something solemn related to Memorial Day somewhere during Memorial Day weekend perhaps with special care for stupid wars and young people coming back in horrible shape. Instead she was served up something small and a little stifling the week AFTER memorial day, held indoors on another day when a proper Northwesterner absolutely ought to be outside soaking up vitamin D.

RantWoman could of course have simply skipped the festivity; RantWoman was in fact only there because she said she would make coffee for the potluck afterward. Well RantWoman exaggerates: it was indeed tender to hear people speak of what was on their hearts but RantWoman was much more clear to uphold what everyone else was speaking of than to speak herself.

Now it's RantWoman's turn

RantWoman will admit it: she still misses her beloved cat Ms. Fuzzface who had to be put to sleep last year due to mouth cancer. This ache had subsided quite a bit but flared up oddly for a few days with the appearance of Guest Kitty, a sweetheart with a completely different temperament than Ms. Fuzzface. It does not even help that Guest Kitty is a strikingly different color from Ms. Fuzzface. For one thing, Guest Kitty is a lot harder for RantWoman to find. For another Guest Kitty does not yet get as well as Ms. Fuzzface did that RantWoman does not see all that well.

The Fourth of July also looms bittersweet for RantWoman, and this before we even get to patriotic rituals. RantWoman had a friend who breathed his last one Fourth of July evening, after a long and horrid illness, just as a nearby firework fizzled.

Then there was the partner of the friend above. another friend of RantWoman, the sort of person who might appreciate the irony of dying on the anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. He was another scholar of languages and had learned Chinese during the travels that came with his father's military service. This friend spent the last couple of months on this mortal coil ranting at the TV newscasters "It's Tien AN mien, not Tien A mien. RantWoman has been thinking with particular tenderness of this friend this year because of certain 20th anniversaries and the tales behind different faces, how they were able to flee, and the ups and downs of protest and public participation.

RantWoman's father also expired during a different July. RantWoman was grateful in that case to find a book by a couple hospice nurses about how people sometimes time their deaths. RantWoman had previously made a very big surprise trip to MT for her father's 60th birthday; RantWoman is not sure what to make of her father's exit on the Monday after RantWoman's next birthday. This was years ago, and MUCH has settled in RantWoman's heart, but RantWoman is still surprised now and again by dreams, some of them quite weird involving her father.

RantWoman listened to sharings from several Friends of lovers and aunts and other figures. RantWoman does not even know where to begin when talking of one dear, dear friend who has recently discovered that she in fact has several different people living in her head. This is the sort of shocking revelation that is greeted with DEEP skepticism by many.

RantWoman without even knowing she was doing so picked up on memories that different voices know different pieces of and "temporal discontinuities" worthy of bad Star Trek episodes during memory of daily events. RantWoman is also struck by how much learning her friend has done of these people during LONG periods of Buddhist meditation and by the spirit of love and acceptance with which her friend has encountered these newly-revealed parts of herself. RantWoman has also gone on enough long walks among blooming trees with this friend to deeply appreciate her friend's sense of basic phenomenology, something else at the core of how her friend is experiencing this reality.

RantWoman remembers her friend hesitating on the phone about telling RantWoman of her discoveries. RantWoman became very clear very fast that if her friend has no choice about living with these parts of herself then being a friend means RantWoman too will do the best she can to live with them. This friend lives hundreds of miles from RantWoman and RantWoman checks often that her friend has other support both professional and by affinity. RantWoman can sort of guess from a few indications that some of her friend's selves might in fact be a little dangerous and RantWoman for now mainly parks that concern.

Finally, if RantWoman is going to grieve she can always grieve her eyeballs, the way people react to her changed sight, RantWoman's own vississitudes of coping, not coping, acceptance, raving exasperation. RantWoman actually suspects this last topic merits at least one post in its own right, but the world will perhaps immediately grasp why RantWoman likely had much too much to attempt to say in one worship, especially one she has to, wrinkle nose childishly, share with others.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

God Gender Torture Creation

RantWoman is feeling that primal nearly pagan thrill she nearly always feels at midsummer. If RantWoman were Catholic, she is certain there would be a saint for the occasion; thinking of this RantWoman remembers an electronic conversation with someone about Hinduism. The theme had been "chosen people complexes." When RantWoman's fellow writer wrote back something about Hinduism being more complex than Christianity, RantWoman wrote back something about "you mean chosen by many gods at once?" There was an electronic chuckle and RantWoman does not remember the next precise moment. IT did not result in any exchange about Hinduism and midsummer, a nexus about which RantWoman's ignorance thus remains large.

RantWoman does not particularly feel a need to dance in the twilight all night to observe Midsummer. A lovely outdoor concert accompanied by the rhythms of a babbling brook would do just fine. Instead RantWoman celebrated with a vigorous walk and a rousing round of dishwashing when she got home. The psychic journey, with themes from RantWoman's most recent Meeting for Worship for Business playing counterpoint in her head is a bit more layered.

Any resemblance between the following and actual minutes for RantWoman's most recent Meeting for Worship for Business are purely accidental:

Discipline: the Yearly Meeting committee seasoning revisions to our Faith and Practice is going to regroup. Despite the committee clerk's sunny prediction, a number of years ago that this work would be all done in two years, the committee will be regrouping in an effort to more precisely realize our vision of radical inclusion. We cannot come to unity about what we believe; therefore we will craft language that includes... We cannot even agree on a label for the committee: one Friend insists it be called the Committee on the Discipline; the committee clerk is uncomfortable with the word discipline. RantWoman herself oscillates between seeing the word Disciple and thinking of something more befitting the back page of RantWoman's favorite scandalous rag.

Torture: We are united in our opposition to torture. However we are nowhere near unity about WHY we are against torture. Some among us have trouble with the phrase images of the Creator as in "torture obliterates the image of the Creator in others." This number appears to include our current clerk. Others of us either think the image of the Creator in others could not possibly be obliterated by mere humans or cannot go forward unless images of the Creator are in our statement and will have big long tirades about not wanting to boil things down to The Big Bang. RantWoman herself again thanks some very wise Sunday school teachers who simply said "who knows how long God's days were then?" RantWoman still has no freaking idea how to extract from that something compact that could be put into the statement that goes with the minute. RantWoman observes us spelling out both views, kicking the problem off for further discernment at Annual Session, and RantWoman especially commends further worship in pursuit of unity. RantWoman also concurred with another restroom user who found the whole exercise torturous.

RantWoman restrained from further sarcasm to the effect that the rest of the world might or might not care about one more goshdang statement that torture is bad and we are agin' it. Those outside Quakerdom would more likely take notice if we all suddenly came out on television FOR torture. Okay, so some of us admit we have a list of people we might happily subject to waterboarding if offered half the chance. Let us just say it is divine mercy not to be offered.

Musical Interlude. The scene: a large auditorium during a Women's Music Festival. The first performer, a regular from the Women's Music circuit though which one RantWoman has no clue, performs a very rocked up "Kum ba yah MOTHERGODDESS!" The crowd applauds, whistles, cheers. Odetta, the next artist, strides onto stage in a great display of presence and dignity. She all but fumigates the stage and then says "Okay, now we will do it right!" Then she leads the crowd of half goddess-worshippers half psychic carnage from various religious wars in amore traditional Kum-ba-yah delivered in Odeta's trademark glorious style.

We now resume our normal Meeting for Worship for Business.

A witch? Oversight Committee recommends we offer membership to a self-described pagan Quaker witch. RantWoman knows there are other Quakers who thus self-identify. RantWoman thinks the word "witch" gets a lot of bad press though RantWoman also feels out of her depth when thinking about supposed patriarchal suppression of women's perspectives, the knowledge of women healers, and assorted other matters. Why would some women have put up with it if this was so universally bad? Did they just know not...?

This particular self-proclaimed witch is in fact a very warm person with an interesting story who has said many, many things that connect with RantWoman's heart and topics near and dear to her. About this person's biggest sin in RantWoman's eyes is changing her profile picture on a certain social networking site about more often than RantWoman changes her underwear and posting acres and acres of untagged photos on that same site. That is nowhere enough to get her onto RantWoman's waterboarding list let alone for RantWoman to want to exclude her from Meeting for Worship. However, RantWoman still could never stick the "witch" label on herself.

RantWoman's Meeting has previously shared worship both with people who protest nuclear submarines and people who maintain nuclear submarines. RantWoman's Meeting includes people who hold quite diverse views about abortion, real estate, Republicans, Democrats, non-ocrats. RantWoman herself has for a long time walked among goddess-worshippers, godless science addicts and supposedly soulless commies. RantWoman generally feels that Meeting for Worship is in the hands of the Divine and that sharing worship is good for almost anyone. RantWoman is also meditating about the unique ministry of being a Quaker witch in the wider world. RantWoman is meditating, but she herself has enough to do exuding Quakerly presence in the direction of thoroughly vexing soap operas at the Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Passing the ...

RantWoman is so NOT feeling mentorly. It's not just that she herself feels inadequate in multiple respects to her many concerns. RantWoman's stomach sinks every time she experiences the flailings of novice transit drivers. Breathe. Breathe. You can do it. RantWoman also has to grit her teeth because too high a percentage of the staff for a medical procedure seem to have arrived only yesterday. It could also be that horrified look her 30-something primary care resident shot her when RantWoman said something about understanding from her body's whole new fluctuations, how 40-something women get pregnant without meaning to. RantWoman meant this comment only as an observation, not as an indicator of her own state; however at 30 perhaps she also would have taken the comment as her provider did.

RantWoman would in fact so prefer the Fairy Godmother option to instill both herself and all around her with RantWoman's preferred level of finesse, expertise, and all-around suaveness. Unfortunately on Pride weekend if RantWoman asks for a Fairy Godmother, she is likely to get one who is 8 feet tall in heels and tripping over a lavender cumberbund, never mind being able to handle what needs handling.

Possibly RantWoman may have to become adequate to what is needed, both in terms of vexing business questions and, even scarier, in terms of being the voice and face of upcoming conferences at her summer Annual Session. RantWoman just fired off yet another mentorly email to two denizens, one older and supposedly more experienced and one younger with more of some expertise than RantWoman has for our joint non-Quaker project.

Next, RantWoman is still breathing deeply after a conference call for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference planning committee. RantWoman has gotten up, used the restroom, had a snack. RantWoman is still thinking about the mechanics of nodding the way things happen during Meeting for Business at RantWoman's meeting over miles where all the people nodding cannot see each other. There would be the option of video conferencing, but a plain telephone conference call is still a lot for some to put our brains around.

As conference calls go, it was at first more awkward than a couple non-Quaker ones RantWoman has attended recently. The participants all know each other a little bit though not well and we are getting acquainted in the course of needing to Get Things Done, to make a few decisions and prepare some key materials in time for the summer gatherings at two Yearly Meetings. RantWoman herself had to settle in and discard additional distractions. Then when long pauses ended awkwardly with speakers colliding in mid-sentence, RantWoman had to remind herself, just worship.

Just worship worked powerfully. We settled important questions about Bible verses and subthemes. Oh, you want details: read the conference blog. We have to-do lists and questions that need more clarification.

We hit a couple questions that will once again perhaps force us to define some way to relate to two yearly meetings when we want neither to have primacy, when some topics necessary for simplicity on Planet Capitalism suddenly become complex given our non-structure. RantWoman supposes, upon hanging up from the call, that sequential conferences could take turns asking the two local yearly meetings for enough organizational blessing to solve what is needed. This would have the added advantage of making each planning committee aware of the prosaic details of how such seemingly simple functionary business gets accomplished in each Yearly Meeting, a learning that could lead many different directions. RantWoman can predict that this would not be a perfect organizational fit. RantWoman also feels clear that it would be good enough and that she herself would rather solve the issues with comparative simplicity and MOVE ON.

RantWoman suspects, based on a limited sample of Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference planning committee members that the stories of what happens between conferences and how with God's help the conferences come together anyway may be almost more powerful than all that worshipping and hiking and swimming together during the conference.

RantWoman herself previously did one stint as co-clerk of the Planning Committee just as her eyes were going kafluey. RantWoman is now humble about how, except for the two co-clerks talking by phone several times, the planning committee did not meet at ALL for a long stretch after we picked the theme until RantWoman was out of the picture with a bruised face and a bubble in her eye. Then others who RantWoman can easily imagine might have been able to act sooner burst into gear and got the days' worship planned and everyone into worship groups and almost everything planned except for some details that needed last-minute attention. RantWoman spent a good bit of the actual conference either half sleeping or half sobbing with the exasperation of her eye experiences. RantWoman assuredly does not recommend that approach. The funny thing looking back is that of the two issues this year's planning committee was thinking about, RantWoman has no memory of doing anything at all regarding one and thinks the other may have had a two-track parallel aspect rather than its current form.

Part of the miracle of these gatherings is that women suffering different travails are well and truly held. Another person was then in remission from breast cancer. Others were grappling with various more prosaic infirmities. RantWoman is sobered to think of several faces no longer among us. Part of RantWoman's sense of inadequacy comes from a sense that some of these departed ones gifts are so utterly lacking in RantWoman that the whole community enterprise may blow away if these exact gifts are required in the previous measure.

To S whose father just passed away: please know you are in RantWoman's prayers. If you are anything like RantWoman, you may need to talk about this from time to time for months and less frequently forever. Please know you are in RantWoman's prayers whenever needed.

And with that, let us commit these ramblings to the ether and see what comes next.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Are we still a dangerous people?

RantWoman has done no reading on this theme and is very unlikely to attend the upcoming workshop by this title at MUltonomah Monthly Meeting . RantWoman certainly finds the concept of dangerousness as a marker of vibrant faith intriguing but RantWoman goes into the conversation with the sort of pointed question: is being dangerous even necessary. In other terms, do we need to go out of our way to be dangerous or do we achieve that simply by living as who we are?

RantWoman is reflecting on two threads of possible answer. In the first case, yes, Friends are dangerous. RantWoman does not think she ever met so many people so frank about their occasional and even frequent desire to and in some cases capacity to inflict grievous harm on others before she started to hang out regularly among Quakers. It's not like every third Quaker is a barely-contained axe-murderer waiting to pounce, but the number willing to admit such desires however fleeting is to RantWoman's discrete sensibilities quite notable.

Perhaps for balance, there are also plenty of Quakers who not only cannot acknowledge any violent inclinations, they can barely stomach anything that might smack of CONFLICT. Quakers are not necessarily alone in this tendency, and all that peace testimony stuff could be predicted to make things worse. In RantWoman's experience, though, this sort of stifling actually can increase the risk that such energy will be explosively dissipated, perhaps in ways the dissipator did not intend or that fall short of aiming at that of God in another or other Quakerly formulations.

RantWoman mentions the question of dangerousness first of all because of a message last week in Meeting from an individual being quite frank about his self-assessment of his capacity for violence and not only frank but frank in a way that would be striking in a work of literature let alone in thecontext of Meeting for Worship. Mind you, RantWoman is a Quaker, but she actually does not necessarily mind strong language, avowedly liturgical music, slam poetry, and even dogged devotion to Bible verses in the context of Meeting for Worship. Unfortunately, RantWoman worships with some people who do mind and who make clear in no uncertain terms that they mind . These poor benighted souls even mind when RantWoman mentions that sometimes the process of suffering, of minding, of working with what comes to mind might in fact be gateways to new transformations, new openings. And RantWoman will not even go near a massive sense of awkwardness around speaking up of conflict.

RantWoman supposes she should enumerate some specific instances of the problems she writes about. Perhaps having set up a theme, RantWoman will be led to identify some circumstances when one or another conflict seems in need of Quakerly resolution.

Among other Friends RantWoman worships with are great constants of sensibility and seasoned capacity to present problems in human terms and to embody faith in how they help work through them. RantWoman also worships among some Friends who, love them as RantWoman does, seem in some respects to like their reality fine the way it is thank you very much.

So yeah, in the spirit of finding things out as one writes, RantWoman has now stumbled across several categories of dangerousness, capacity for physical harm, poorly executed conflict resolution and tiresome complacency. That would probably be enough dangerousness for one morning, but RantWoman's thoughts now turn to another thread from last week's Meeting for Worship: a member of our Meeting was last week to facilitate a meeting between the commander of our friendly comparatively nearby nuclear submarine base and the main organization that organizes regular protests, please-arrest-me choreography, and other ministry designed to cause the public continually to reflect on our own country's first strike weapons, the threat of nuclear war, and other such topics.

(Between when RantWoman started this and when it got posted, the meeting with the admiral occurred. The review was that it went well: the admiral was courteous; others were courteous. There was a perception of human connection. RantWoman would point out that people tend not to get get appointed admiral without some basic grasp of human interactions.)

RantWoman wishes to note though that protestations of non-violence and radical equality might indeed look very dangerous to people whose lives depend on wielding, responsibly one hopes, of the most powerful weaponry in the world. Radical equality most certainly is a challenge to people whose lives depend on hierarchy just as the Quakers of yore seemed dangerous to the social order of the day.

Finally, apropos of certain up-and-coming middle easter countries and certain pathetic north Asian dictatorships and their desire for radical equality in the form of their own nuclear arsenals, RantWoman must confess to understanding the desire. RantWoman generally favors a lot fewer rather than more nuclear weapons all the way around, and RantWoman supposes that also adds up to several dangerous ideas even if RantWoman finds herself still seeking Divine light about how to get there.

Friday, June 5, 2009


It occurs to RantWoman that in connection with preparations for the next Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference it would not be terrible to assemble some e-material on eldering. It would occur to RantWoman that this is a good idea, but RantWoman has way too much ahead of this in queue to do today.

RantWoman confesses that she has already posted the results of one recent effort to elder her about her practice sometimes of doing Sudoku in Meeting for Worship. RantWoman was proud to accept the role of Clerk of the Committee on Doing Sudoku in Meeting for Worship Committee at Facebook's Association of Bad Friends. RantWoman realizes that this failing is not of the same scale as some proudly proclaimed there, but RantWoman feels that is as much obvious failing as she will willingly contribute. Unwillingly may be another matter! As for the redundancy in the committee name, both RantWoman's Monthly Meeting and Yearly Meeting as well as some other bodies have committees with just about that level of redundancy and that appears to be an element of some flavors of Quakerese.

RantWoman finds herself reflecting on another hypothetical instance of eldering. RantWoman's Meetinghouse used to have an absolutely lovely salmon-colored azalea at the edge of the walkway at the entry to the grounds. A couple of years ago while the tree / bush/ whatever azaleas are was in glorious full bloom, some unknown miscreants came along at some unknown time and hauled it away. They hauled it away in a way that broke all the stalks and almost certainly killed the plant.

On the scale of global barbarities, one unquestionably could do worse, but several Friends were justifiably affronted and mortified. What to do in this situation? RantWoman advocated calling the cops and making them come and take a report just in case there was a band of azalea-butchering barbarians loose in the city, but RantWoman thinks that did not happen. What else to do?

RantWoman is an enthusiastic consumer of all manner of possibly un-Quakerly material. Well RantWoman is a Quaker and she consumes it, therefore.... However, be ye forewarned some of RantWoman's tastes might curl your hair. A local rag called The Stranger offers its pages as a forum for weekly anonymous rants and the azalea-napping seemed prime candidate for excoriation in that medium. The Wrong Azalea RantWoman did not write the headline; she would have done better.

RantWoman was mainly venting her own spleen; she did not mean this as a test of who else among the weighty of her Meeting also read The Stranger but her efforts were recognized. When asked she of course readily claimed credit. The following good-natured conversation ensued: "Does thee need to be eldered?" "I dunno. Would thee like More overt reference to (our site) or less? Would thee like MORE unQuakerly language or less unQuakerly language?"

You dear readers might get the idea from these examples that RantWoman is not fully receptive to eldering. RantWoman is inclined to let time and other posts take care of that possible misimpression. Let us just say that RantWoman has once or twice just felt tremendously ministered to by different generations of Quakers speaking to their experiences in previous times. Sometimes the precise words are one matter. Sometimes it is also just the fact that these Friends have come through these events still centered and clear as Friends.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Message from ...

The Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co came up yesterday during Meeting for Worship. You must trust RantWoman that the message was in fact thematically on-topic. More to the point, RantWoman thinks it's so fabulously wonderful that such a place exists that she heartily recommends it to all and sundry!