4.02.2006

don't know if i can do it

This morning, like lots of other Sunday mornings, i've woken up and thought "i could go to that Quaker meeting down the street." I've never done it, though. I've always come up with a reason not to. For one, i always remember the time i went to my first quaker meeting in Nashville several years ago.

Although i wish it weren't this way, eating breakfast is a real act of will power for me. (like the meetings) i can always find a reason not to. And so it was on that fateful Sunday morning. As you probably know, Quaker meetings are silent. Unfortunately, my stomach was not. It talked the whole time. And not just a few declarative sentences, but those long, drawn out gurgles that sound like some piece of antiquated machinery starting up.

I don't know why i didn't just get up and leave. I tried putting a book over my stomach like i saw my mother do when i was a little kid in church. It didn't help. I started to try and anticipate the big ones--the ones where you can feel your stomach get up to the edge of a cliff and get ready to jump off--and cough or clear my throat at the right moment. That didn't work. I, and everyone else at the meeting, endured the thirty or so minutes of this stomach concert of mine. Afterwards, somebody came over and sweetly said "man, we had donuts in the back..."

I haven't been able to go back since then, and it's mostly all because of breakfast. Well, dammit, this mornin' i'm eating' some oatmeal and i'm goin' down there.

The reason that i want to do this is because, as a faith, i identify myself with the Friends a lot these days. For one, AA is historically tied to them. Two, like my friend Kenneth Burns wrote so eloquently about a few months ago, i find i have a need for that sense of community i got from church when i was a kid. And finally, i've found that the older i've gotten, the closer i've gotten to becoming a committed pacifist. Like a real, absolutely non-violent pacifist. I want to find a way to actively express this notion in myself.

i've examined this penchant a lot. Like, there's a lot of reasons i might do it un-healthily: privilege, cowardice, and hautiness are three of those reasons. But i think i've finally come to a point where i recognize that i think i'm willing to allow another human being to possibly injure me and me not injuring back. The ruminations that surround this are a blog post in themselves, so i'm not gonna go into them here, but i do want tell a wierd story that is connected:

I had a friend once whose son was dying of cancer. She told me one day that, when he died, she planned to kill herself. Well, i was appalled. I tried to argue with her about this, but mostly just ended up going "But...but...but..." Although i felt deep down this was not the best action to take, i couldn't formulate a good enough argument to counter her decision. I ruminated on this for weeks. In the meantime, i watched her go off on kayak trips and rock-climbing trips and do things that most people would be afraid to do. I saw that she wasn't doing these things as a kind of deathwish--she was duly careful, wore a helmet, scouted the rapids. It occured to me she was able to do some of these things--and possibly come through un-harmed--because she was able to see past the mortal fear they invoked in most people. She had removed a huge barrier in her life. She had removed death, she had removed fear. (and strangely, when she eventually decided against her plan to do herself in, her son was announced "in remission.")

And so it goes for me. Although the fear of violence from working in these lots up here has been a fairly real one, i've told myself that i wouldn't do anything about it anyway. I have given up that illusion of control, handed it over to something bigger than myself, and, as a result, things-- things that i did not think i could do--have just gotten done. I haven't had to be afraid.

Pacifism, i find, is not really a thing in itself. It's more like a non-thing. One doesn't really move toward non-violence. One just really moves away from being a slave to reaction. I find the space there is a lot less cluttered.

1 comment:

Gargantuas said...

Be at war with your vices; at peace with your neighbors, and let every new
year find you a better man . ~ Benjamin Franklin

Always eat a good breakfast before going to church. Always wear something besides pajamas to a college level English class.