Thursday, March 22, 2007

Confessions of a Quaker Camp Follower

Slowly, I'm finding that my life is populated by closet bloggers. There's the friend whose blog shall, at her urgent request, remain secret. I'm probably missing something. The magic wand thing didn't really phase me. I mean, we all do that.

It's actually a great metaphor for blogging itself. Or maybe it's a euphemism. I can't decide.

"Generally speaking, I blog at least once a day."

Another friend, Mary, just told me about her Beginners Mind blog. Her last entry inspired me to offer a few spiritual observations of my own.

I was raised Catholic, which means that I went to Catholic schools until they kicked me out and attended church when my mother made me. By the 4th grade, having declared myself an atheist, I scandalized the other kids at Saint Mary's School.

Despite this absence of enthusiasm, some of it stuck. As a grade schooler, I was steeped the social gospel of Vatican II. I remained struck by the Sermon on the Mount and was deeply affected by Jesus' radicalism.

In 1970 came Jesus Christ Superstar, which was blacklisted by the Catholic Daughters of America and, by extension, my mother. By listening to it over and over again in my friend's basement across the street, I committed the thing to memory — beginning to end — for the rest of my life. I was eleven.

My secondary religious influence was a half-assed mysticism that began with mail order lessons from the Rosecrucians at seventeen and culminated in my late-twenties with a mushroom inspired moment of universal insight.

I still regard this as my one authentic religious experience. The fact that I cheated doesn't matter to me in the least.

Buddhism, which is more of a practice than a religion, speaks to me as well. As they say, a watched mind never boils.

Finally, I married into the Quakers. I often accuse my wife of being the worst Quaker in the world, but that's not fair. She's probably about average.

George Fox, the barefoot nutcase, is the real deal, and the Letters of John Woolman are a remarkable document of the spiritually engaged life. The Quaker notion of "speaking to that of God in everyone" just works for me. It's something I try to live up to.

So I've been known to sit quietly through the occasional Quaker meeting, but I'm basically too shallow to be serious about it.

This makes me a Quaker camp follower, which is as close to organized religion as I care to come.

But I do have a theology.

Love, I have concluded, is the thing that keeps life from being a piece of shit. It is those sparks of divinity that we carry, drawn toward each other by a kind of cosmic magnetism, that are the glue of the universe. We can choose to abet this process or not, and this is what gives our lives meaning.

I don't need anyone to tell me this. I just know it, like I know that water, ice, and steam are all the same thing. It's an observable phenomenon.

Love, love, love. Love is all you need.

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