Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Quaker Way (Part 1)

One of my new favorite authors is Parker J. Palmer, a writer, teacher, and activist, whom I've written about in an earlier post. The only book of his I've read (and reread) thus far is Let Your Life Speak, Listening for the Voice of Vocation (but I've ordered a few more books and will keep you updated).

By the time Palmer was 35 years old, he'd changed careers a few times (He dropped out of seminary school to get a Ph.D. in sociology, left academia to become a community organizer, and returned to academia to teach students how to get involved in community organizing) but he still was floundering, which was why he was taking a sabbatical at Pendle Hill, a Quaker community.

He writes: "But when I arrived and started sharing my vocational quandary, people responded with a traditional Quaker counsel that, despite their good intentions, left me more discouraged. "Have faith," they said, "and way will open."

Palmer felt he did have faith, but that he was approaching middle age and was struggling because he hadn't found a "vocational path that feels right."

"After a few months of deepening frustration, I took my troubles to an older Quaker woman well known for her thoughtfulness and candor. 'Ruth,' I said, 'people keep telling me that 'way will open.' Well, I sit in the silence, I pray, I listen for my calling, but way is not happening...'

"Ruth's reply was a model of Quaker plain-speaking. 'I'm a birthright Friend,' she said somberly, 'and in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me.' She paused and I started sinking in despair. Was this woman telling me that the Quaker concept of God's guidance was a hoax?

"Then she spoke again, this time with a grin, 'But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding principle.'"

"I laughed with her, laughed long and loud, the kind of laughter that comes when a simple truth exposes your heart for the needless neurotic mess it has become..."

(to be continued)

1 comment:

"Dootz" said... only sadness in reading this exchange is that in our American culture, we (1) don't listen, and (2) don't listen to our elders...