Fishes and Bugs

October 18, 2009

Meeting for Worship was silent today. Not one message.

But, our Meeting has something called afterthoughts, where people are invited to stand and share thoughts that they feel did not rise to the level of a message. One woman spoke about a letter she found while cleaning out a storage space. In it, a friend is telling the woman that she is self centered after making dismissive comments about the Vietnam war, when the friend had just lost a loved one in the war.

The woman also reflected on the storage space she is trying to clean out. She said it has 40 years worth of stuff that she’s saving for she doesnt know what.  She reflected on the ways that the Quaker practice of simplicity might be connected to humility. And how, insisting on collecting things, no matter how small, is the opposite of simplicity, how it might foster pride, arrogance, self-centeredness, even, and whether she has truly taken to heart the criticism her friend gave her almost fifty years ago.

I had an afterthought, but didnt share. My afterthought consisted of a similar image of a pond, but this time it was the idea of the Meeting as the surface of a pond and the messages from Friends as bugs that touch down or a fishes that come up. For me, messages are the little woodland creatures that come along to  ripple the pond. For me, right now, a silent Meeting is like a pond with no fishes or bugs. Something’s missing; I need to those ripples to keep my heart and mind moving.



There were more than a few messages at Meeting today. Attendance was less than usual. The first message was from a man thanking the Meeting for holding him in the light as he has surgery for a very treatable prostate cancer. More messages followed centering on the idea of gratitude. One woman described a weekend in the woods with an old friend, the friend’s husband and her own daughter. A couple of people talked about long and happy lives, the delights of retirement, long marriages in spite of difficulties. Another talked about the recent death’s of seven friends’ and colleagues’ parents and the death of her own mother.

A few referred to the elderbration we were going to have after Meeting. Four of the Meeting’s members are over 80. We had a living funeral for them, essentially an opportunity to share stories about them, and them about themselves, while they are still alive. Of the four, only one, the lesbian, was well enough to attend. She is beyond well — quirky, loving and spontaneous. Ever so slightly gruff. She even made a pass at Wifebian two weeks ago. A former PE teacher. All I ever wanted to do in life was play games, she said.

Wifebian and I spent the later part of the day on a rooftop deck. I initiated a converation about our own twilight years. I meant to talk about how we want to retire, how we want to die. But all Wifebian could say is that she will never love again if I die first. I said her views on death are as immature as my views on procreation and she agreed.

Chocolates from the Muslims

September 20, 2009


I went to Meeting today alone because Wifebian is sick. When I arrived, it turned out Meeting had been postponed by a half hour to accommodate a group of Muslims who were using our space for the last day of Ramadan. I went out to the car to call Wifebian and tell her about the delay. On my way back in, I passed three Muslim men and said hello to the youngest. He replied, but barely made eye contact. I wondered if we would be allowed to shake hands, since I’m on the rag.

During meeting, there were three messages all connected in one way or another to Islam. One woman offered a message focusing on the mingling of our worship and theirs in the room this morning. She shared that the three men offered the Meeting a plant and a box of chocolates as a thank you for using the space and that they shared a quote from the Koran saying something about how Allah likes people who give. Another person shared his experience in London during 9-11 when he was lost in a part of town that was mostly Arabic-speaking and how when he asked for directions none of its denizens threw stones at him and how wonderful was that?

Just as I was losing touch with the Meeting, another Friend shared a message about the three men whom I had passed on the way in, about them as people. He said they were the Imam and the Imam’s son. He said the third man was the mosque’s contact with the Meeting. The Friend described the Imam as stiff, his son as shy and the contact as friendly.  He and the contact greeted one another by name and began an idle conversation. He talked about how each man’s expression softened and warmed as they greeted and then spoke with one another this morning, even the friendliest man. He said that each time the friendly man smiled bigger and warmer, he couldnt help but remark to himself how beautiful he was. Tears came to my eyes. Of course, I love it when ostensibly straight men remark on one another’s beauty, but also because I often have that experience, of looking at people, no matter how old or different or plain, and being mesmerized by just how gorgeous they are. The Friend said the memory of the friendliest man’s eyes flashing with warmth revives his hope for “everything that could be and what’s not impossible” because there is something in every person that truly likes other people, that enjoys sharing and helping. I think this, too.