Advices and queries E:4 “Obey the laws of the state, except when they conflict with your inner conviction“. My thoughts go out to those in Russia, who have chosen to protest the invasion of Ukraine, knowing the sure consequences – arrest by an authoritarian regime. Choosing to put oneself in harm’s way by the state when they could remain silent takes much courage. I can understand those who wish to defend their family and way of life, after all, they are directly affected. But to take stance on a matter of moral conviction knowing the inevitable consequences takes a special kind of courage. Let us hold them in the light as well as the people of Ukraine.Ministry offered at Meeting for Worship 27 Feb 2022
Today I have been having one of those migraines that affect my ability to string together a spoken sentence that will be comprehensible to others. Nevertheless I can still have an urge to communicate. That happened this morning during Meeting for Worship. Usually when I have an urge to offer ministry I resist. In perhaps the last 30 years I’ve offered ministry no more than a handful of times.
My resistance is not because I feel I have nothing to offer. It’s because experience has taught me that by expressing myself I make myself vulnerable and open to misinterpretation. A fact of life that every autist is painfully well aware of, but of which the non-autistic community write off as rudeness, stupidity, or social ineptitude on our part, worthy of being written off as inconsequential or ignored at best, or worthy of ridicule and/or retaliation at worst.
Experience should have also taught me that there are exceptions to that rule – whānau and Friends (Quakers) in particular don’t jump to the conclusion that I might have some ulterior motive such as malice, ego, selfishness or an intent to offend. Whānau because they have known me all their lives, or for seventy plus years (whichever is the shorter), and Friends because they tend to be more considered in their communications – in “Quakerspeak”, seeking, and speaking to that of God in every person.
Before I continue, I’m convinced there is “that of God” (which I usually interpret as being a spark of good or a spark for good) in everyone – no exceptions – but I will admit that there are a few individuals where it seems so well hidden that I have been unable to find it.
Often when I have an urge to speak, beit during Meeting for Worship or any other time, I carefully construct the concern into a series of sentences that I feel are adequate, and then articulate those sentences silently. Unable to overcome the fear of what I want to say being devalued, but needing to speak nonetheless, I speak my words silently, with no movement of jaw, lips or tongue.
Speaking silently like this does ease the urge that has built up, but in practical terms it doesn’t do much in the way of communicating my thoughts or concerns to others. And yet so many times I when I do this at Meeting for Worship, someone will later stand and speak on the very topic I chose to be silent on. Perhaps if I believed in the existence of a divine being then I might explain it away as being the hand of God at play, but my rational self explains it away as more likely that within the community of Quakers, Friends have similar values and concerns, even if our experiences are different. Whatever is concerning me is probably concerning other Friends as well.
We’ve been fortunate on this country in that since the beginning of the pandemic there has been only six or seven weeks when covid mandates have prevented Quakers from holding Meetings at the Meeting House. During those times, Meetings were held via Zoom. That platform has since become part of the local Quaker environment, beit Meetings for Worship, Meetings for Business or discussion groups and seminars. Those who are unable to attend in person can now attend via Zoom. More often than not I’m the only person attending local Worship by that platform, but occasionally I’m joined by one or two others.
Today during Worship I had one of those urges to speak. Today I didn’t need to suppress it because the migraine prevented me from uttering much more than intermittent slurred monosyllabic words. I felt more frustrated than fearful. Then it occurred to me – Zoom has a chat facility. I could speak via the medium of typed words. So I did.
I practiced what I wanted to say, then typed those words into the chat box. Now that the migraine has somewhat abated, I can see that the spelling and grammar were atrocious, but nonetheless after Meeting Several of those attending asked if they could have permission to quote me at other events, so it seems my message spoke to some Friends today. Let’s hope they tidy it up before sharing it 🙂
From my perspective, the experience was liberating. I was able to express myself at my own pace instead of the pace that most people expect of the spoken word. In many ways today’s experience has been even more liberating than discovering the blogosphere. There, I’m more or less anonymous but communication is at a pace that suits me. Within local communities I’m not so fortunate, but at least now, within my Quaker community I have an alternative means of “speaking” when I’m motivated to say something.
The quotation at the top of this blog post is a slightly tidied up version of what I typed into the Zoom chat box this morning. I wonder if I would have the courage to make such a stand if I was a Russian resident?
27 Feb, 2022 at 3:43 pm
What you said is an important message. It’s hard to imagine living in a country where the right to free speech is unavailable (although at this rate the US may be one of those countries in a few years). I’m a stand on my soapbox, take the moral high ground sort of person as much an anyone, but if I was sure it would come back and bite me? I dunno.
27 Feb, 2022 at 3:52 pm
It’s knowing the repercussions but still taking a moral stance that I can’t help but wonder how they muster the courage needed. After all, keeping silent has no negative impact on them.
It’s a situation I hope I never find myself in.