i want to ‘lectrify my soul.

yesterday at meeting for worship there were a lot of tears. and when somebody spoke/sang about the belief that there will be laughter even after people go, my natural tendency toward making people laugh when times are sad, went into high gear.

i wanted to tell the “hilarious” story of my first quaker meeting. i was an american tourist in whitby, england, and i had a cold. i tried to get tissues before the meeting started but nowhere was open, and that hunt took so long that i got to the meetinghouse just as meeting was started so i couldn’t find the bathroom. so i dashed in and sat there, for my very first hour of silence. except thanks to me, it wasn’t silence. the silence was regularly punctuated by my sniffles, as i tried to sink into the worship in some way. as i remember, there were multiple doors into and out of the worship room, and so even if i had felt brave enough to get up to go to a restroom at such a mysterious and holy time, i didn’t know where any of the doors led. so i just sat there. and sniffled. and felt american.

at the end of the worship time, the elderly woman next to me, kindly turned and told me that she wanted to offer me a tissue, but they were all up her sleeve and she wasn’t sure if that would bother me or not, so she hadn’t offered me a tissue.

what i got from reliving that story in my mind yesterday, was actually less about the funniness of the story but of the tissues we all have up our sleeves that we are too self-conscious to share.

but i didn’t tell the story or the lesson i had learned from it. there’s this flowchart that’s somewhere in our meeting’s seeker’s packets that gets referred to sometimes, and it’s about how to test whether to share a message. the part that i remember the most is that you can ask yourself if the message is just for you or for the group.

here is my embarrassing and guilty quaker confession:

what keeps me from speaking at meeting for worship, more than anything, when i have these “enlightening” moments is that as i start asking myself if the message is for me or the group, another piece comes in, which is, “am i willing to live by this?” and sometimes i’m not sure. sometimes the idea of living by my own grand advice that seems like it’s from god to the group, with me sort of tangentially involved, is so terrifying or exhausting-seeming, that i keep it to myself.

also, yesterday, i finished reading a pendle hill pamphlet by ben pink dandelion, “confident quakerism.” when i went to return it to the library, the library committee member behind the desk asked what i’d thought. and it was hard to answer, because i’d started the pamphlet months ago, read half of it, and then read the other half today. as i recalled, the beginning had been somewhat irritating, but yesterday’s reading had been useful. as i recall, the beginning dealt with some theological mistakes the author had made, and something in how they were presented had irked me. but there was a sentence near the end about how conversations about our spiritual mistakes breaks open things between people. in my conversation, i hypothesised that maybe our mistakes our better talked about than written about (and now i am writing about that idea). maybe they crystallize a little out of context, when you see them in print.

but it was interesting to read that yesterday, because besides theological mistakes, another place where stuff breaks up in important ways, is when people talk about race and oppression. i’m looking at ph. d. programs right now and i just discovered this week that there are education programs that have whiteness studies as part of it, and that has gotten me really excited. so i got all excited about that as a theological exercise, too.

but of course i don’t want to mix up an academic field with worship.

but probably the core of my belief system is that god is there when you are open to the truth. and frequently that is messy and awkward.

(and at the same time something i am continually learning is the boundaries of one’s own messy-and-awkward and others’ messy-and-awkward. as a writer who has very little filter, i must be mindful that others have filters and boundaries, and they are there for a reason.)

after meeting for worship, my girlfriend and i trekked over to ocean beach to see gillian welch, old crow medicine show, and emmylou harris pay tribute to warren hellman, the man who had started the hardly strictly bluegrass festival, a free music festival in golden gate park. i can never be convinced to go to the festival anymore because it is too crowded and full of alcohol and pot, even if i think it’s a good idea. but i liked the slightly smaller (though still robust) crowd of this event, the considerably rarer instances of people lighting up anything near me (though i did have this funny interaction on the phone with my mom between sets. she said, “we’re lighting a fire in the pit out here,” JUST as pulled out a pipe and lit it right next to me, and so i said, “yeah, someone’s got a little one going over here, too.), the explicitly respectful vibe of the event, and the beautiful escape valve of the roaring ocean just behind me. i was actually able to enjoy the music.

life is sadder than sometimes i’d like to admit. and it’s hard. and growth is hard. but there is god in the music and the laughter and the time shared together and the solitude of the ocean and the mistakes we make and our ability to open up about those mistakes. and if there’s not, there’s something really close, pointing to what god really is.

ignore-ance.

in one of my first zines, i waxed poetic about the way the word “ignore” is in “ignorance.” i’m not sure what all i said about it, and it’s very possible that this post is just a rehashing of some epiphany i had at 21 years old.

but one of the things that breaks my heart and frustrates me the most is the way that part of human nature seems to be a certain pride in ignorance. the way that when we don’t understand another person’s belief, culture, or ideas, they must me stupid. the way that so many liberal folk think the bible is nonsense, sort of based on the fact that they’ve never read it.

i had a conversation with someone this week in which i was trying to explain my frustration and sadness over the way that smart liberal folks have in many ways just handed religion over to “the fox news people” (… i never watch fox news, so i was doing it right then, right?). and somehow what that person heard was that i was frustrated and sad because smart liberal people are stupid enough to believe in god. it was the oddest thing, my complete inability to communicate that what i meant was that there really is something in religion for smart liberal people but so many of us refuse to access it.

i’m one of the few people in my group of friends who are my peers that was either raised with religion or who still have religion. and so i see this pride in ignorance a lot. i LOVE my friends and i’m reluctant to say this because it sounds pretty critical, especially since i’m too shy to say it when it happens, but there have been times when we’ll pass a church or something and what the church says on the outside looks so ludicrous to the person and they will make fun of it, but it’s something that makes sense to me. but i can’t express it. i can’t figure out what to say to make it make sense.

we passed a church once that said “church of god in christ” and my good friend just thought that was the funniest thing. “how can it be ‘of god’ and ‘in christ’ at the same time?” and i couldn’t figure out how to explain it…

this post is becoming more about my inability to express myself and be an advocate for my faith than i totally feel comfortable with.

what it was meant to be about, and what i’ve been thinking about the most, is what a part of human nature all of that is. how we choose what we are experts in. how i don’t watch the news, watch sports, stay current in music… but how i get frustrated when someone doesn’t know all the classic movie stars or bad ’80s tv or y.a. lit that i know. we know what we know and we like that we know it and we think everyone who doesn’t know what we know are deficient in some way. and people who know things different from how we know them is also deficient, because they are clearly paying attention to the wrong things.

are there ways to bridge that?

you say “well hey, it’s about time” and i say “no, no it’s about love”

there’s a post i’ve been holding onto for months, maybe years. i’m actually sitting here trying to write it and have managed to get halfway through it twice before highlighting the whole thing and hitting delete. i think of it as the post that’s gotten in the way of writing here regularly anymore, but it just won’t come out either.

it’s about my confusion about accountability to myself, from others, and to my meeting. it’s about calling and that falling away or shifting and not knowing where it went and not knowing how to ask for support and feeling bitter that it wasn’t just offered and feeling guilty for wanting other people to follow all of my whims and fluctuations. it’s about my desire to be more aware of others’ whims and fluctuations. it’s about accidentally almost joining a cult. it’s about the death of a member of my clearness committee. it’s about diversity and social justice and the question of if quakerism really is for everyone. it’s about how still and all, the majority of my friends are white. it’s about struggling as a teacher. it’s about crying at the meeting retreat two years ago because i just desperately wanted to give all of my students the type of experience i was having right then. it’s about how i don’t understand the valuable experiences my students have. it’s about wanting to write more. it’s about wanting to be more of what i think a quaker should be. it’s about living far from my meeting. it’s about feeling far from my meeting. it’s about feeling close to my meeting. it’s about unexpected phone calls from members of my meeting when i am feeling low or am across the country. it’s about feeling distance and then suddenly feeling overly close. it’s about being a grown-up. it’s about trying to infuse my teaching with quakerism. it’s about leaving and coming back. it’s about bitterness and angst and self-recrimination. it’s about deciding. it’s about not deciding. it’s about confusion, sadness, and joy. it’s about days slipping by. it’s about living.

maybe now that that’s all out of the way, i can start focusing on god again.

i went to a quaker-led journaling workshop this week. it was at the berkeley meeting, which is just a short bike ride away from my house. it’s based around a book by parker palmer, who i’ve read and enjoyed as an educator.

i showed up late to the workshop and people were already journaling about a poem called “fire” by judy sorum brown, and i was given some potential prompts and asked to think about the fire in my life.

first i rambled in my journal about where i was, what i was doing, why i was late, trying to get myself acquainted with the page. then i started writing about how i’m not 100 percent sure what the fire even is. if it’s in my job, then it seems like the fire is just going whether i want it to or not. later, we had the opportunity to share our thoughts with another person, and i analogized my situation to a trail of gasoline. at the end of it is a bigger bonfire, and that’s where there will be spaces for oxygen to tend to the fire, but right now it’s just a running trail and i’ve got to go with it because there’s no other option.

but is that my “spiritual fire” or not?

then i wrote a list of all of the things that i conflate together although they are not the same:
god,
quakerism,
quaker meeting,
christianity,
prayer,
service,
spirit,
responsibility…

& wrote about how i find myself making internal statements like, “i’m not as connected to god as i used to be because i’m too busy and sometimes have to miss committee meetings.” which brings me to the only theological question i seem to ever ponder these days, which is:

was i more connected to god when i had so much free time at my disposal for explicit contemplation, or am i more connected now, when i’m too busy doing what i think is god’s work for me to stop and contemplate god all that much?

… every day, though, in the thick of it, more than last year even, i find myself asking over and over again, “make me an instrument of your peace.”

because that’s what you have to do when a 12 year old girl is defiantly screaming at you about how you are a sinner because you have a tattoo on your wrist, right after you asked her to please start the math work that everybody else is almost done with. and you’re pretty sure it’s going to happen again after lunch, too.

i learned this week that “religio” means “relink.”

a few years ago, i had a dream that i was in an airport, running to catch my flight, and trying to say goodbye to three men, rev. andrew james brown of the cambridge unitarian church, mike michalson of new college of florida, and… some other guy (possibly the pastor of venice united church of christ). i hugged them, and then left. i don’t know where i was coming from, where i was going, or more importantly, when i actually had the dream.

the thing about these folks was that they were all positive male spiritual role models in my life. and in my dream, i was obviously leaving them. was i going further, back, or just somewhere else?

i’ve been thinking about this dream because i recently found that blog of andrew james brown’s. he was such a helpful person in my spiritual growth. he had such a positive and grounded view of spiritual questions that were sending me into giant flurries. AND he taught me to pick up trash. i’m still not very good at that. but if all my experiences with unitarians were like my experience with him, i’d be a unitarian still. and wouldn’t the quakers be sad.

michalson was my adviser in college. things went a little cockeyed with him at the end, because my life was going pretty cockeyed at the time. but i still admire him a whole awful lot. he’s why i studied religion in college. his humorous and balanced takes on christianity effected me a lot, pushing me past a lot of my bitterness and making it all a lot more interesting.

i think the dream was after i’d finished college and moved to seattle. if i was to place it in the place it made most sense, maybe it was once i’d started my americorps term and was realizing that working with kids was what really did it for me, as opposed to possibly going into the ministry myself.

recently i’ve started going to a conversation series at glide memorial church called “living the questions.” apparently a lot of churches do these conversations– there’s a video series and stuff. our conversations have not gone much further than check-ins, but i’m really excited about them. it’s a great way to get to know more people in a deep deep way, and i love that. the woman who leads them, paige rawson, is very inspiring, earnest, and joyful, and it’s that sort of thing where you feel like you are part of something really important.

this is all linked. and it’s all linked to quakerism for me. because sometimes i wonder if the ministry is for me. then i remember that i’m a wuss and a brat about certain things, and i remember that working with kids is completely, totally amazing and exactly what i should be doing, and then finally i remember that ministry is part of just being a quaker. i can be clumsy and bratty and new and wide-eyed, and i can work on the flaws in that, but it’s all part of cubbie the quaker minister, just by my living… my questions… and my seams.

david m. has said something that has resonated with me. what he likes about quakerism is that conversation and connection is part of the practice of quakerism. when i think about it, it’s part of other faith traditions as well, of course, but… it’s something that is so so so essential about quakerism for me. i’m excited to be reconnecting with parts of my pre-quaker past, and to branching out my connections right now as well. and i’m thrilled that all of these connections are helping my quakerism thrive as well.

trying to read some blogs for once. i’m sort of debating getting a netbook at some point in the nearish-esque future, because i really don’t have a lot of time in front of a computer where i can really sit down and read or write. my emails feel very scattered because they are fast unconnected sentences with as much info as i can remember to include in a very short period of time. this isn’t because i’m particularly busy, but because the computers i use aren’t mine, so i always feel slightly invasive. this has been the case for years, but i think i’m ready to regain my computing independence. especially since i plan on going back to school in the summer/fall.

it’s been interesting, because the little bit of reading i just did all sort of “speaks to my condition.” let’s see if i can explain it in a semi-swift but still complete manner.

as you may know, i’ve had a sort of concern about diversity. this seemed to be leading me toward niyonu spann’s beyond diversity 101 workshop, but that has been postponed multiple times and now i’m not sure if or when i will be able to attend. i have a clearness committee that is theoretically around that, but the past few meetings have mostly enlightened me to how fuzzy-headed i feel.

at the most recent one, we decided to check in about meeting about once every three months. i was asked what i wanted in the meantime. i said, “conversations and resources.” everyone agreed.

a couple of weeks went by. i blinked a little. and then i started making some phone calls. and on an almost weekly basis, i’ve been getting together with a different person from my clearness committee. and some new things are starting to form. i’m a little shy about sharing them here just yet, because they’re… tender… and unformed somewhat. but something is actually starting to come into shape. and i’m getting a little excited again.

but/and… i’m going to be busy soon. i’m on nominating committee this year, which apparently always means that you join a committee that you theoretically didn’t have time for before, but when you get rejected so many times, you start to feel guilty and take on stuff. so i joined children’s religious ed. which i’ve meant to do for about a year now, so… and then there’s that whole starting school thing. and then there’s the busy-ness that i think my leading will… lead… to.

and so it was interesting to read various posts about tending the inward fire, and , and, er, reading batman. they seem linked. that blend of self-care and faithfulness. it’s good. i like it. i would like to post all three in my head’s bulletin board for easy access, but… i don’t have one of those, so… i’ll have to figure something else out. like, um, maybe a good inward fire.

i’m still figuring out if i’m knocking and it is being given to me, or if i’m just trying to put on some sort of show. but… my hibernation for the past few months hasn’t felt like much of a show.

america, why are your libraries full of tears?

it’s international blog against racism week! every year when this comes along, i find myself trapped in some sort of weird writer’s block. i want to say Something, and i usually have Lots to say on the topic, but now, this week, i can’t even begin.

i’m reading a collection of the writings of bayard rustin right now and i just read a peace about the journey of reconciliation. in 1946, the supreme court passed the morgan decision, which said that interstate travel wasn’t subject to jim crow laws. to test this, rustin and 15 others, black and white, took greyhound and trailways buses through the south, with the black folks sitting in the front and the white folks sitting in the back. they went on different trips, not all on the same bus at once, but there were always people of color and white folks participating in the experiment. the reactions were mixed, but rustin concludes that the predominant feeling was that of “confusion.” there was actually little violence and what there was was directed at the white folks participating. there was support and there was rage, but the men (they were all men) on these trips held steady.

what am i as a white ally doing that’s anything like this? what is the religious society of friends doing that’s anything like this? i’m romanticizing the past surely, but oh golly, we’ve gotten so comfortable. challenging things breaks us out of those comfort zones and it’s so hard to be bothered when we’ve got “martha stewart shams and sheets and sugar free powdered iced tea, vanilla coke, lemon pepsi, friends episodes on dvd” as kimya dawson sings about. we are trapped in some sort of ridiculous pleasuredome where all of these things keep consoling us. it’s not just quakers and maybe quakers are sort of better at breaking out of that consumerism thing than some other people, but we’re still stuck somewhere.

is that racism? “your problems can wait, my problems can wait, let’s watch some tv…” it’s despair. and laziness. and cowardice too, in this land of the brave. “i will never fix things so i will console myself with stuff… and i won’t talk to you because you are a stranger… and so i will never hear you and i will never realize i need to change and i will continue to be sad and yet content in my world of privilege…” is that racism? i think it’s all over america. i do it.

“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic? ”
~from “America” by Allen Ginsberg

i am currently looking for employment that will start in two weeks, working 46 hours a week, and being around internetty computers much less than usual– so when i’m around computers, they are for craigslist-searching primarily. i of course have much to say, but i’ve been meaning to share these queries with you all for awhile…

Queries – Race and Class – Young Adult Friends Discussion – 6/18/08

•If you feel comfortable and as a way for us to know each other a bit better,
please address race and class issues in you background?

•What is most joyful for you in your discernment on race and class.

•What is most challenging or more aptly might cause you angst, guilt,
avoidance, or other deep emotions?

•Race and class often avoided in the “mainstream culture” but ever present
among us. Please share a situation where you avoided one or both of these
issues and what affect it had on you?

•As a seeker and a Friend, what is your hope for our community as we venture
forth and walk with the Light in seasoning these issues?

they are from a worship sharing for the young adult group at sf meeting that was led by our building manager and generally great guy, steve. there were four of us there, but the sharing that happened was very deep.

sometimes i wonder if my leading is just to engage in scary conversations. they’re hard when you work 46 hours a week. not that you become less brave, but just your mental capacity to translate things from your heart to your brain and out your mouth becomes less. but it’s possible. i should not make excuses. they just have not been happening too much. i’m not too stressed yet. lulls happen. but as i was part of this conversation, i wondered what it would be like in a group where we were not all already friends and we were not all white. the sharing was beautiful to me, but how would it sound to people who have heard all the excuses, self-congratulations, and ignorance of white folks before. if i facilitated something like this and real, reasonable or unreasonable rage came up, how would i handle it? i hope i would be gracious and not smug, not condescending, and able to be the real love that i want to be.

… today, during meeting, i stood up and said, “i love you and i will be transformed.” it was going to be longer i thought, but it wasn’t. i stood for what felt like a very long time before and after.

there are many sides to any story. there are many sides to my own stories. there are the stories i tell now and the stories i’ll tell tomorrow. and there are the stories that tell one part of how i feel right now, and stories that tell a whole other part of how i feel.

the important part of my last post for me was that Right Then, i was feeling Very Disillusioned. as i wrote it, i tried to express that it was probably temporary and that i also felt a load of other things. i was as frustrated with the person in question, and as sympathetic to my meeting as i was angry and disillusioned. it felt urgent and it still feels important that i wrote it from the lens that i did, because i don’t express that part of things much. and there’s always a part of me that wants more from quakers, that wants to push harder, that wants to hold the group accountable to the things that i’ve learned from quakerism to hold myself accountable to.

it hurt people. i didn’t want to hurt people. but it’s hard not to hurt people when one is speaking from hurt. (which is a potential lesson from our experience with that person.) but there’s also tremendous potential for healing. which was what i was going for. i was hoping that in being honest about how i felt about the situation, i could heal and the meeting could heal.

of course, with blogs, honesty becomes one-sided and poisonous. whether you intend it or not. it doesn’t feel like dialog, and it can seem invasive.

i’m leaving my post up, because it’s true. it’s also only part of something. it’s not totally true. it’s not my whole truth, and it’s not The whole truth. but it’s true for what it is. and because there are posts before it and after it that keep it in context. our meeting wasn’t perfect, it did the best it could, it’s been amazing for me, i wish it could be amazing for everyone. that’s what i tried to tell. you miss that if you only read that post. that’s another scary thing about blogs. mine’s a conversation with myself and it’s easy to misunderstand things when you just catch part of a conversation. it might be a generational thing, i might be embarrassed someday, i regret that it was hurtful, but i think this blog serves the community best when the seams show. a flawless community is not real– as much as i wish it were.

i’ve gotten 10 visitors in the past few days that have visited my site from searching for cubbie, quaker, and blog. before these past few days, that had happened a couple of times, but once i became controversial, people wanted to find me. i hope that they will come back and see the calm days, the loving days, the joyful days. those are most days.

i hate that our meeting has caused people pain. i hate it because it has not caused me pain, and that makes me feel strangely guilty, very sad, and a little angry at everyone involved. who are you that you can not be perfect to me and also this person? who are you that you do not find the perfection here? who am i that i am willing to accept this place that has wounded you?

when i posted about feeling like an enabler, it was true. there have been times when i feel like i’m making excuses for abusive behavior to a wounded person. i am not wounded by these people, but i’ve seen it happen, and i’ve tried to make the woundings not true. “have you tried this? have you considered that?” i feel like i’m making excuses. there is a truth to the disconnect between mine and others’ experiences that is not abuse, but it feels so much like my experience of dealing with abuse that i don’t know how else to name it yet. i’ve known denial. i haven’t known this “one person’s medicine being another person’s poison” like this before.

since my post, i’ve gotten 3 phone calls and a few emails. i’ve felt embarrassed, stalked, hounded, and loved. every conversation, i expected some sort of cease and desist order, but instead, i got love. some hurt, some agreement, tons and tons of love. and not just to me. i heard about so much love for this man. and honestly, i’d sort of forgotten that part, even as i claimed to sort of remember. i’m sorry i forgot. i’m sorry if you felt like your efforts and care was dismissed. i screw up. and you still love me. i raged like i did because i believed we could handle it. i forgot that that could hurt you, but i knew i’d be forgiven. that’s pretty juvenile, i guess. i’ll try not to take advantage of that again.

talking with him that day reminded me that i need to be honest. and it reminded me that i have not been faithful to all that i should be honest about. i’ve talked in my clearness committees about my yearnings for scary conversations, and haven’t really done them. i initiated a one-sided scary conversation over here, not expecting the sort of follow-up it had, and was confronted with a number of scary conversations that made me want to show up at meeting with movie star dark glasses. but i didn’t. i held myself accountable to my words. and now i will start on those scary conversations that need to be had. the ones that don’t ambush– the ones where we choose to be brave and face each other and ourselves… and god or whomever is there to keep us safe there.

at meeting for worship this past sunday, there were a lot of messages about the world and all that’s happening out in it… and if we’re willing to listen to god if god asks us to go, move, and do something about it.

it made me itchy. maybe because i’m not as informed about the rest of the world as i think i probably should be. maybe because i don’t feel like i’m doing enough. maybe because i was in a place of judgment of other people that i couldn’t get out of. maybe i just had a soapbox.

these moments have happened before, where suddenly i find myself feeling so passionate and so frustrated about something in meeting for worship or other quaker things that i immediately don’t trust it. it must be so much from me that no light is coming in, and i’m blinded by my own self and my own agenda.

my concern about “diversity” is like that. it feels so big and important to me that i fear it’s just my own thing, and my real leading is elsewhere.

AHA! in that sentence, i found in myself my issue with… what i have an issue with that i hadn’t quite put into words yet.

my family moved a lot. i’m closer to 30 dwelling places than i am to 30 years old. it came out of a combination of wanderlust, poverty, and family ties. and then after i went to college, i wound up moving a lot, too. and i will probably move many more times. i want to settle down, but there’s always some reason why this place isn’t it anymore.

so that’s my bias, my lens– the one that moving is great and exhausting and important… and it takes you away. you move and you get to be a stranger, you get to reinvent yourself, you get to screw up and have it be okay, you get to be welcomed, you get to be missed, you get to be surrounded by people who are foreign and other. this happens to some degree whether you move across town or across the world.

and i can’t get easy with the idea that god calls us to that exotic strangerhood over the deep sinking in to our neighborhoods, into our communities, into the big scary issues that are always right there and ready to be dealt with. there’s poverty, hunger, injustice, violence everywhere– in ourselves, in our next door neighbors, and yes, in communities across the world. and there is definitely something to be said for taking us and our rights and our privileges across the world and using those to help people who have less rights and privileges.

but in this weird way, it’s easier than taking us and our rights and our privileges across the street and using those to help the people there. because we might both stick around. we might change things and they might stick and we might have to continue to be responsible.

do we move when the spirit says move? can we even hear, respect, and heed it when the spirit says to stay right here? wow, that’s so much less interesting. but i’m starting to think… maybe just for me… but maybe not… that it might be more important.