Friends Peace Testimony as Questing Beast

The following passage is from "A Continuing Journey: Papers from the Quaker Peace Roundtable, Pendle Hill, 1995", in which Chel Avery writes about "The Friends Peace Testimony as 'Questing Beast'".

What follows is a discussion of the varieties of our peace testimony experience, as I have been able to categorize them. In the past few days, I have finally figured out the one unifying term that gathers up all the things I have been told about the peace testimony as if it were, after all, a single thing. It is a Questing Beast.

The Questing Beast is a minor character from the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Think about the peace testimony as I describe her to you:

She had the head of a serpent, the body of a lizard, the haunches of a lion, and the feet of a deer. And wherever she went, she made a noise in her belly like "thirty couple of hounds questing". In other words, she was a mish-mash of many animals, but she was treated and talked about■quite affectionately, by the way■as if she were a single being.

She hardly ever did any harm to anyone, except a little bit occasionally by accident when she got too excited. She lived to be hunted, and when she was not being pursued, she lost vitality and wasted away.

Her hunter was King Pellinore. He considered pursuit of the Questing Beast, whom he loved, as his special, hereditary mission handed down from a long line of noble ancestors. In additional ways, Pellinore shares some of the less glorious but perhaps more endearing characteristics of Friends. He was always well meaning, if sometimes a bit bumbling and confused. He was unmethodical in the extreme. He had mixed feelings about his mission. He was often distracted by other interests, or was torn between the noble quest and his longing for a good meal and a warm bed.

And at least once, when Pellinore got carried away to another country, the Questing Beast came to find him.

This is our peace testimony. It is a variety of animals, all smooshed together, so that we think of it as a single thing. Like Pellinore, we prize our relationship with it. It is ours to follow, even if we are not always sure how to follow it, or whether we might not prefer to do something easier and more pleasant instead. It is a thing to be sought but never captured.

It wastes away without that pursuit. And only rarely, in very blessed moments,does it come to find us.