Friday, July 1, 2011

Musings about "what love can do"

“Let us try then what love can do” – William Penn

Among Quakers, this quote if often seen and cited as a guiding principle.

I was thinking about this quote a lot over the weekend, as I have been in the midst of a busy few weeks with Workcamps, while planning for future Workcamps and preparing to lead a retreat at Baltimore Yearly Meeting on Radical Hospitality and Simplicity.

What I was thinking about was this:

Do we as Friends sometimes turn to this statement about love when other tools in our tool box have failed to achieve the desired outcomes? After attempts at trying to get people to see our way either through argument, persuasion, protest or lobbying, do we then think “alright, let me try ‘love’ as the means to get the result I am looking for”?

If this is the case, I suspect we have misinterpreted the great potential, and perhaps also missed the intent of William Penn. I am learning to appreciate that “love”, like a healthy lifestyle, requires a greater consciousness and commitment – a real spiritual practice. It is more about having a presence than a skill. “In what ways am I being ‘loving’ in what I am doing” is the question that seems to be formulating for me. This is different than loving something such as spaghetti or bologna. It has to do with engaging with heart, not with head, but not disconnecting from the head either. It seems to be about letting the heart lead, rather than using the heart to do what the head wants.

At this juncture, all of this is still very rudimentary and almost foreign to me. My comfort zone is to stay in the head, but I also have seen the limitations of believing we can think our way to solutions. This is not an “either/or” process, however. It all does connect to Radical Hospitality and Simplicity; articulating this is still something I am working on. As part of this work, however, what I find I do need to do is step away from reactionary politics and theology, and to always look for what I can do today to be a more loving person by nurturing understanding, compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing, rather than blame and anger. I recognize that this is not about denouncing others for their actions, either, but to simply state where I am coming from and honoring others for theirs.

I also know that, at best, I can hope to achieve this 20% of the time. Tomorrow, maybe I can hit 21%. Such is the challenge of “practice”.

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