Michael Dunn, Clerk of Pacific Yearly Meeting Committee on Unity with Nature forwarded to me the notes he took from an interest group of the Junior Yearly Meeting. They are in the form of verbatim messages from the 12- to 19-year-old participants. There were about 25 to 30 youth present; they tended to drift in as the session was underway. Most of those present made a statement. There are also several statements from committee members mixed in with the ministry from the young people. (Can you tell which are the words of the adults? I can't.)
I was impressed ... more than impressed, I was awe-struck. These are the same youth we have so much trouble talking to, who respond to an adult's questioning on these matters with an expression of total boredom. The skateboarders, mall-cruisers, body-piercers whom we adults despair of teaching to care for anything outside themselves.
But from the following personal statements, it would seem too soon to despair. Perhaps we adults are mistaken in assuming we are in sole possession of a sense of love and unity with all creation. Perhaps we are all still children in our understanding of God's living work and our role in it.
These messages were in response to one or more queries posed to the group. I was not given the exact wording of the question, but found that I didn't need it. Nor will you when you read them.
I think the Light of God is within every living thing. It can't just be in humans - we're animals too, just because we have brains and opposable thumbs. Even mosquitoes - we hate them, but birds live off them. Life is a chain.
I have a much easier time seeing the Light within all living things than within all things. There's something strange and wonderfully different about living things.
I believe the Light of God is within all things, not just living. In my experience exploring caves, there's no way I can say that when you're underground, you're not surrounded by a living being.
I think that the Spirit and the Light of the living creates and empowers the non-living. So in that sense, the non-living is also empowered with the Light.
Sometimes, I think that animals are closer to God and more spiritual than people. They don't think about things, they're just simple.
You really have to respect all of them in their own environment, whether it's an elephant or a bush. You can't just kill it. Something could just happen to you and God/Nature might not respect you as much as you'd like to be respected.
I have no problem seeing the Light of God in all living things. Its really easy for me to look at the sky and see that its alive and see God in a sunset. But when you get closer, its harder in things that are more "normal", like this carpet or something. Its hard to see it as anything other than a carpet.
A couple of earthquakes ago, I discovered that the actual experience of an earthquake is a joyous thing, because when I feel the earth move, I can definitely feel that it is alive.
All living things have the Light within them because they grow - like a rose bush can grow roses.
Everything has a certain degree of life, its just that we're only able to recognize it up to a certain point.
I don't see a sharp separation between living and non-living, because living and non-living are made of the same elements. So I don't know how to draw the line. Its easier for me to say there's that of God in all things.
Maybe God is in all things, but maybe the Light is like the soul and it's in living things.
I can feel a sense of loss if a tree is chopped down or broken in half. I can't feel the same sense of loss if I pick up a rock from the ground and smash it in half. I might feel the same sense of loss if the rock had been made into a beautiful statue. Maybe the essence of the plant is to grow and cutting it or breaking it destroys its essence.
For me, the key word is "creation." We wake up in life and the more we look at it, we see we're part of this ongoing creation. I stand in awe of this whole process and wonder how I fit into it all.
We aren't very good at formulating the question. Asking "is the Light within all life spirit? "is like asking "who fought in the Spanish civil war? " Better to ask "is there Light within all life?" than "is there Light within all matter?" But for me, the question is moot. Its possible that structure has a great deal to do with the outcome of any creation. Spirit may be introduced at some point where it wasn't before, where no part of it was before. Depending on how its arranged, something may have Light within it or not.
Seems for most people it's easier to see the Light within animals than in rocks or whatever. Being in nature is the best way to see it.
My most enlightening experiences have been in nature, where both plants and rocks surround me. The plants get life from the rocks and the rocks get enjoyment from the plants.
Maybe the Sierras should be a special place for Quakers because John Muir called it "The Range of Light."
Laying on my sleeping bag and looking at the sky, I realized there is Light and Beauty and God in the stars - in plain view. It's so extraordinary.
Could it be that Light is given when energy is put in? A plant uses energy to grow, energy is put into a rock to make a statue. It's something to think about.
When I was younger, I had a really hard time understanding what meditating was all about. Four years ago, I was on a backpack trip (sponsored by CUN) and it was Sunday so we had meeting for worship, outside in nature. It was really different! I really understood.
August 5, 1998
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