Posts Tagged ‘quaker’

as 101 year old American Kathryn Davis proves.

To celebrate her 100th birthday, Davis set up ‘Projects for Peace,’ which supported college students in 100 projects that promoted peace around the globe. It was such a success that she’s just donated another $1 million for a second series.

Davis was educated in a Quaker school. She tells the Christian Science Monitor:

“They didn’t believe in fighting; they would just keep working toward a compromise … And I think that’s what we all have to do,” she says. “Many people are very cynical about peace. They say it’s in man’s nature to fight, and I say, man has to get over that nature because war has become so dangerous.”

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A few weeks back I was attending our local Friends meeting and thinking about light.

Specifically, I was looking at the many lamps hanging in the meeting room and wondering if they should ever be turned on during a meeting for worship. Why not, I thought, always hold our meetings in the available light — however dim — and simply enjoy whatever luminance nature chose to offer that day?

That led me to the value Quakers place on holding each other ‘in the light.’ It’s a wonderful concept, referring to the inner light that guides our spirits and helps us lead lives of integrity.

And that led me to literal human illumination which, surely, is something else entirely.

Take the intrusion that human lighting now makes upon the night sky. What we aptly dub ‘light pollution’ not only represents a huge waste of energy — most buildings and streets illuminated all through the night are not inhabited or traveled upon.   But it also means that there are few populated places upon the Earth where we can see anything like the true magnificence of the universe.

An effort this coming weekend — EarthHour — aims both to draw attention to the energy wasted in our excessive nocturnal illuminations, and to let us simply see the stars again.

Modesty and thrift are both Quaker virtues. Reigning in the man-made light we shed on ourselves so that we can see the natural world better — and helping save that world from the harm such profligacy causes — fits well into the Quaker way of doing things.

In that Meeting I recalled that James Turrell, one of the world’s great connoisseurs of light (both natural and man-made), is a Quaker. Turrell’s Live Oak Meeting House in Houston, Texas is justly admired both by Friends and art buffs of the highest brow. It’s a piece of modern art of extraordinary resonance, simplicity and depth.

Here’s hoping that EarthHour will be observed in Houston and that the Live Oak ‘skyspace’ will be open to the heavens that night.

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Being a Quaker means believing that clergies are more of a hinderance than a help when it comes to leading a righteous spiritual life. And for a case study in the convoluted, self-sustaining theological bureaucracies that clergies happily make for themselves, it would be hard to beat the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary — a ‘tribunal of mercy’ mostly concerned with deciding who gets forgiven for what sins.

Still, we’re glad to see Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, head of said Penitentiary, declare that pollution should be regarded as a modern sin.

In comments to the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, last Sunday Girotti listed “drugs, pollution and genetic manipulations as well as social and economic injustices as new areas of sinful behavior,” to quote CNN’s story on the announcement.

CNN speculates that this is a warm up for a new Papal initiative on ecology and the environment.  We hope that’s the case.

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What this is

is a start, really. It’s about beginning to rethink the fundamental question of how we should live now.

It’s a place for asking what we need to do to recalibrate our lives, our expectations, our ideas of what will — and what can — make us happy in the face of the reality that the way we live now is toxic for both our planet and ourselves.

It’s especially about what those of us privileged enough to be born into free societies, and lucky enough to have discretionary income at our disposal, can — and should — do with our money, time and energies.

EarthQuaker is born of a deep respect for nature and a desire to live within nature, instead of in conflict with it. EarthQuaker uses the lens of Quaker witness — and the political, economic, humane and spiritual insights that witness provides — to seek sustainable solutions to what is perhaps our most urgent dilemma: how to live from now on.

And, with luck, it won’t be nearly as portentous as this already sounds.

Join the conversation!

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