Santa Barbara Friends Meeting

Notes from Seeker's Meeting

The facilitator mentioned that there are two issues: 1. the meaning of the light within; 2. How to transform and nurture our species' return to living in harmony with the earth. Suggested that the Seeker's Meeting focus on the first issue, allowing silence and room between speakers for the spirit to move.


Friend 1: An image from Martin Buber. .Holy Sparks from a shattered world entered everything in this world. Our task is to redeem the holy spark, to honor and recognize the holy sparks in every part of creation (table, insects, flowers, clothes). Everything is composed of moving atoms-is living.

Friend 2: Remembering the Shoshone discussions of "The Great Spirit" at the Desert Peace Witness. Not talking about just plants and animals. All creation is more than living things-inanimate objects also. Going beyond plants and animals is a personal revelation. Against eating meat, but everything we do uses energy. Everything we do increases entropy. Stewardship-using irreplaceable energy. Use it in reverent, holy ways. Reverence the fact that we're using irreplaceable things. Give thanks to The Great Spirit for what we're using. Don't be idealistic and believe in a perfect state. There is no perfect state. Everything we do is a mixture of good and evil. Analogy with antislavery and suffrage movements: acknowledging need to free slaves was a spiritual journey, but freeing the slaves was a political act. Terrible price of progress. We can't continue. We're exceeding our limits. Spiritual leaders facilitate political change. Political action necessarily is different than the spiritual journey. Doesn't always come easy to Quakers. Change the political system that corrupts the earth.

Friend 3: Simplicity is in the eye of the beholder. We choose how we decide to think about things. One person's simplicity might be another person's complexity. "Light within" can be helpful in making things more simple-more clear what to do. Quote from Thomas Kelly (1941) on the universal light. Struck by "as insights emerge they need to be integrated into our daily lives. This work has just begun." The work began 200 years ago. It won't be completed in the next 200 years. Take comfort that we (Quakers) have been struggling with this all along and have been making good progress.

Friend 4: We live in a shrinking universe. There are Friends who say God is in everything and God made everything-even a cancer virus. There is light within all living things. What about other things? The apostle Paul said "we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but principalities and powers." ... We live and move in the infinite. We need to become aware of this: It's the struggle of the soul. It's conceited to think we're alone in the universe. How can we return to a harmony we never achieved? We must accept the struggle and take comfort in the light. We mustn't be closed to what's moving in each of us. Experience! Don't be afraid Quakers are especially blessed-we see not just what we wish could be done, but what must be done.

Friend 5: These issues are important! I have to step back and not just get overwhelmed. Environmental activism feels like shouting in the wind uphill. Where is that harmony we seek? It's important that concern for the earth is a spiritual concern. It lifts a weight from my shoulder and becomes an internal commitment. I'm limited in awareness of spirit and in activism. Collective light will make changes. Struggle is where to start and what to do. It's a gift to look [in the Light].

Friend 6: Recently I watched a PBS special about people who live in RVs and converted busses and travel the country. There was one fellow who said he was going to have to quit traveling by bus because he felt so much remorse at the creatures hit and killed Then he remarked that he was currently driving at subMonarch speed, meaning he wouldn't hurt a Monarch butterfly if he ran into it. Then there was a woman in her 70s who was walking across country with her dog, sleeping by the side of the road and staying in an occasional motel. She was worrying about how to afford an RV when she heard someone say on TV that the Gulf War was all about oil. In a moment of clarity, she decided to walk. I look for those moments of clarity when the struggle falls away. Recently, I saw a squirrel run over by a car. As I drove past, it was convulsing by the side of the road. I turned around and came back, driving slowly by, agonizing over whether I should try to run over it and put it out of its misery. It was already dead and another squirrel was sniffing it. We made eye contact. I came back around, heading in my original direction, and already a crow had landed and was pecking at the dead squirrel's corpse. I was immersed in a deep, overwhelming sense of the wheel of life. Of how it is always turning and we only fool ourselves thinking ourselves apart from it all. I work a few hundred yards from where that squirrel died, in a windowless office building, sitting in front of a computer. Yet all the while I'm really connected, moving in this amazing drama of life and death. I realized my arrogance in standing apart. This breach must be healed. And I cried for that squirrel without understanding why, as deeply as I'd cried for a Friend who just died.

Friend 7: So caught up in consumerism and caring for ourselves in the way we think we should. Doesn't leave energy for caregiving of the earth. Until we step out of consumerism. there won't be enough energy left. We only have so much of a personal life.

Friend 8: There is a Light within myself-it's personal, intimate. Things of the earth contain spirit but not the Light within. (At least, I don't think of these things as containing the Light.) We should respect things and treat them well. The Light within is given to me as a gift when my defenses are down and I can be reached, such as in Meeting for Worship.

We were told to get rid of wooden cutting boards and use plastic. I never went for that. Now I learn it's best to use wood because it renews and cleans itself. When I stumble over a rock, I feel in relationship with it. I try to give the Light within to the next thing-to move it along-to the meanest thing, also, once a relationship is established. It's about intangible love that brings one to life and reaches every person, object, plant that one comes into contact with. Ignore big picture-focus on direct interactions-and we'll have more to share.

Friend 9: I had an experience in the woods in high school at a Christian gathering. I came to believe that what was holy was the relationship between particles that come together-rock, living things. The spark of coming together for the common good-integration. God must be in the integrative process....

Friend 10: Daddy long legs, spiders, ants around the house-never kill a living thing. Good and evil. No such thing as evil. Energies arise out of evil in order to correct it-these energies are good.

Friend 5: Where is the harmony? We've increased our lifespan. Medical progress that changes us because we respect the light within human life. We want to save human life. We respect nature and the balance-the wheel of life. This seems to be in conflict with the money, time and resources that are spent/wasted in unnaturally saving/prolonging human lives. We respect this. We also respect the animals who live and die in a natural cycle.

Friend ~: It's humbling to be in the woods and see where a finch was caught in a fisherman's hook in the tree and the bird struggled to free itself before dying. It's humbling to understand we don't know, but we do trust the light within us. It opens us up to opportunities to worship.

We're trying to get back to some ideal of harmony. Are we avoiding facing the struggle? Struggle was given to us by our Creator!

Friend 10: John Woolman said something like "whatever is allotted to us, something good will come out of it."

Friend 11: I'm confused. What do we return to? Primitive man? Amoebas? Volcanoes? We protest bulldozing of the oak trees. Maggots protest malathion. .. Where do we draw the line? It's wasteful to bum oil. Save it for some future unknown use. Are we already bound to the wheel? How do we get off? Do we want to get off? Is there Light within everything on the wheel? Only the greatest saints and mystics have gotten off the wheel. What can we do: Is it a spiral more than a wheel?

Friend 3: "Where do you draw the line?" It's a profound question and an accurate summary of what came up here today.

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