Be still and cool

I awoke to a social media storm. The first thing I saw on facebook was, “Woke to find the Government has declared war on my existence. Stress, shaking, panic, fear.” Oh. What’s happened now? The Sunday Times’ main front page article was about trans. It said nothing new about the government’s plans on trans recognition, in the most obnoxious way.

I read the article, and wondered whether to blog about it, or go cycling before Meeting. I decided to blog about it, and share that blog, so I did, and then felt wound up. I needed to calm down before Meeting, and knew the passage: QFP 2:18.

Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. That is it which moulds up into patience, into innocency, into soberness, into stillness, into stayedness, into quietness, up to God, with his power.

Considering that was not enough, so I phoned a Friend. She knows a lot of the Bible. God challenges Job:

Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on all who are proud, and abase them.
Look on all who are proud, and bring them low;
tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
Then I will also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can give you victory.

Job, sitting on his ash heap, cannot do these things. So Job says, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. Then, he gets wealthy again, with sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys and beautiful daughters. He is a bright, active man, and he does what works for him.

I still need to calm down. There is a lot to wind people up, these days: the deaths from the Pandemic, Brexit, the George Floyd demonstrations, and, for me in particular, JK Rowling’s statement and that Sunday Times article coming after Liz Truss’s statement. Others have been outraged about Miriam Margolyes. For years Donald Trump has been fomenting the outrage through Twitter, and it seems Boris Johnson is following the same route. So there were far-right demonstrators “defending statues”,

I find the source of the Fox quote, which is his letter to Lady Claypole, at p346 of Nickall’s edition of his Journal. I read it, before and during Meeting, and considered its predictions. “Looking down at sin, and corruption, and distraction, you are swallowed up in it,” he says. Ain’t that the truth. Of course I knew “Be still and cool” before, but today it speaks to my condition in the clearest way. But- “Looking at the light that discovers them, you will see over them. That will give victory; and you will find grace and strength; and there is the first step of peace.”

A Beatles song comes to mind:

Dear Prudence, won’t you open up your eyes?
The sun is out
The sky is blue
It’s beautiful
And so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you open up your eyes?

Saturday, my personal growth workshop was about Yin. Yang goes out, does stuff and achieves things, and Yin receives, notices what is, including what is inside me, what I feel. Jamie Catto says our education is far more for Yang than Yin. Mmm. So, “I awoke to a social media storm”. Well, why? Because the first thing I did on awakening, before showering, dressing or breakfast, was to scroll facebook. One answer would be to spend less time on facebook. However, I want my voice to be heard. I shared about JK Rowling, and had 1,163 views of it on the post’s first day. I had a lot of social media love. It is nothing compared to in person friendship or affection, but it can be a delight- “Love the way you write. Hate the way you hurt,” said one person, once.

So, my voice is calling for peace, about Rowling and the Sunday Times. I feel this is worthwhile, and may even be worth the costs of “looking down at distraction”, in order to coax others from it. I might find other ways for my voice to be heard.

I am still with Victorian genre painters. Here’s George Goodwin Kilburne:

George Fox’s Teapot

It’s as if we are venerating people, particularly George Fox, Margaret Fell, and William Penn, and holding holy relics in the Friends House Library. Like what, I asked. “George Fox’s teapot? Fragments of the tree under which William Penn made his treaty with the native Americans? That’s like fragments of the True Cross.”

Well, should we keep such things? The collection is in part a record of the Society, including what we have valued in the past. It does not all have the documents archivists would now like, to show the provenance, though Quakers are truthful, understanding the temptation to exaggerate a story, so I believe Fox owned the teapot and the Friend who donated it had good reason for believing that, or s/he would not have said it was his. We have limited room, and there are interesting archives which might be more worth our attention.

I suggested selling it, and she said that would be unethical. There would be an assumption, perhaps an agreement, when it was given to preserve it and value it. Also, museums and local councils have a vast treasury of objects and documents, which might be sold to pay off temporary deficits where central government should take action and halt austerity. Public goods should not be privatised. However, we might see if another museum or public collection was willing to take it.

I will not undertake a pilgrimage to see George Fox’s teapot, or pieces of wood, or even locks of Margaret Fell’s hair. I would feel a passing interest if I were in Friends House and it were in a display case somewhere, or someone got it out to show it to Friends. I don’t know why anyone might. The head of library and archives is not a Quaker, and that is fine by me as she has particular expertise as an historian and archivist. She was travelling to see an archive of letters from a first world war conscientious objector to his parents, from prison. For all I know the letters might be a new Dietrich Bonhoffer awaiting discovery, or saying nothing which is not well known and documented elsewhere, but if we take them on we have obligations to preserve them and catalogue them, which takes space and staff time. I am happy that a non-Quaker sympathetic to Quaker values make this decision. I would even trust her discretion in disposing of some of the venerated relics, but some Quakers might object. It might be worth opening a discussion among Quakers, of what the Library’s best uses are.

Talking of tea pots: I had not heard of Benjamin Lay, a Quaker anti-slavery pioneer born in 1682. He influenced John Woolman. He could be offensive, on one occasion taking his wife’s tea set to a public place to smash it, piece by piece. He refused to sell any of it. Tea and china was expensive, and could show off wealth or status. It offended his principles of Equality. A Friend and Friends House employee was making a podcast about him. It had to be signed off by senior staff, and I question that: I would trust him to inform and entertain, and accept what he said even if it were not precisely what I might have said. There is, for me, a wide range of reasonable work which I would accept on the Quaker website, to avoid too many people labouring over it and second-guessing, just as we trust the clerk, rather than a committee, to set meeting agendas.