Monday, June 27, 2005

Gathering Soon, and a Passage

First and foremost, FGC Gathering begins Saturday, and I will most certainly be there! (I have an intense feeling of excited anticipation!) I'd love to meet other bloggers in person, if any are going. I know some of you out there are. I have no plan or idea about how to find people, but I thought I'd just bring it up anyway. (I'll be deeply involved with the high school program, making me less available than others, but as a Friend mentioned to me a little while ago, I do have to eat!)

Moving on, I've been reading A Certain Kind of Perfection by Marge Post Abbott. It's an "anthology of evangelical and liberal Quaker writers" spanning the last three centuries with a number of passages from well known, and some lesser known Friends. A particular part of a passage written by Adam Curle really stood out to me, especially pertaining to my situation with my step-mother, though it applies in all sorts of situations:

The absolute necessity for attentive listening was borne in on me very early in my experience of peace making. I became aware that what my friends and I were trying to say was often not heard, especially at the start of a meeting or if the situation were particularly tense. A question or observation would, it is true, be answered, but not responded to in any meaningful way. It was as though our words were filtered through a compound of anger, fear, resentment and perconception that radically changed their meaning. It was to this new meaning that the people we were talking with responded, often angrily and usually irrelevantly. Because of the general circumstances, what we said was often perceived as having a threatening or insulting meaning, or a perfectly straightforward question would be taken as criticism. ... We, in fact, were not being listened to, but if we had responded with irritation, it would mean that we, too, had not been listening. We assumed without question that the way to overcome these difficulties of communication was to say very little, certainly not to argue, re-explian, or contradict, but to be inwardly still and as receptive as possible. This would usually enable the storm of emotion, so natural in men under great pressure, to blow itself out.

[This can be found on page 150.]

The entire passage spoke of attentive listening, a concept important not only in our daily lives, but also spiritually. Goodness, I speak as if our daily lives are seperate from our spiritual lives - I believe they are one and the same, if only we can come to terms with that.

When my Native American friends visited me they would always fall silent, Quaker-like, and listen. How else, they asked, could they discover my condition and so speak to it, as they always did most effectively. [Found on page 151.]

There is so much truth in this, and it grounds me to read it.

6 Comments:

Blogger Contemplative Scholar said...

Wow, thank you for sharing these passages! This sentence I found especially powerful: We, in fact, were not being listened to, but if we had responded with irritation, it would mean that we, too, had not been listening.

This happens to be one of the most important things I am learning: how not to respond defensively to others' strong emotion. Even though long ago I learned to be quiet and let people play their emotion out, I was still taking it defensively, and so I was not really listening. I was still interpreting it hurtfully as being about me, and so I was letting it damage me, even if I seemed to be acting like I was mature and understanding!

Once I began to learn how to listen to expressions of emotion differently, I learned to hear these expressions in terms of people's own spiritual journeys. Not that I'm perfect about this yet, but in general, I'm not afraid of others' strong emotion any more.

28/6/05 7:54 AM  
Blogger Danny said...

hi Claire,

your post made me want to share a little story. I don't know where this comes from, but:
Someone asked Mother Teresa what she says when she prays to God, and she answered: "nothing; I listen". So this someone went on: "then what does God say to you when you listen?" She replied: "nothing. He listens too."

I don't exactly how that relates to your post, but I felt like it needed saying.

blessings,
Danny

ps I only started quaker blogging last week, but more readers is always nice. :-)

28/6/05 6:36 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Contemplative - I too have found that it is difficult to listen when I feel so strongly that I, myself, am not being listened to! It is something that I have struggled with (especially in these past few weeks) when communicating (or failing to) with my step-mother.


Danny - I really like that story; it to speaks to me (even with all of its listening). Thank you for sharing it.

Also, I see that you're from Chapel Hill! (Are you, perchance, there in the summer?)

I am currently living and working in Chapel Hill until mid-August sometime. I'm originally from nearby Durham, though, so I still go to Durham Friends Meeting and haven't been to Chapel Hill Friends Meeting. If you're here this summer, perhaps we could meet up sometime?

I'm not (and probably will never be) a UNC-CH student (I'm off to Wellesley at the end of the summer), but perhaps I could help with the UNC on-campus unprogrammed Friends group you mention in your blog while I'm here, or give some ideas? Just a thought.

Love and Light,
Claire

28/6/05 9:06 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Claire, you write:

I'd love to meet other bloggers in person, if any are going. I know some of you out there are. I have no plan or idea about how to find people, but I thought I'd just bring it up anyway. (I'll be deeply involved with the high school program, making me less available than others, but as a Friend mentioned to me a little while ago, I do have to eat!)

Like you, I'm interested and curious to gather with other Quaker bloggers while at the Gathering. Schedules are always tight and chaotic; I'm sure we'll have to keep our eyes open for one another, and for blips in the daily Bulletin that is printed each day. Let's see if Way will open... And I'm still looking forward to meeting you at the HS MfWfB, especially the first session.

Blessings,
Liz, The Good Raised Up

29/6/05 3:08 PM  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Friend Claire:
I just found your blog, I would love to add you to my links, my blog can be found under the link Plain in the city, if you follow your link to Of the Best Stuff, but Plain, ... feel free to email me at InOBU@aol.com and let me know if you would like me to add your blog to my links

Yours in the light
Lorcan Otway
15st. Meeting NYC

5/7/05 7:33 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Hello Lorcan - do feel free to add my blog to your links! I would like to add yours to my list, as well. I'm glad to connect.

Love and Light,
Claire

10/7/05 3:13 PM  

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