Zeal’s a bit out of fashion at the moment. Being too enthusiastic, especially about your religion or something else generally deemed to belong to the private sphere – sexuality, hobbies – is a bit embarrassing. The general emphasis, politically and socially, is on apathy.
I’m not going to go into the political effects of this, mostly because I trust that they are obvious – low voter turnouts, governments who feel they can ignore the needs of the people, and so forth. In education and work settings, it mostly seems to mean that we try and make things seem effortless and uninteresting, being casually dismissive about the amount of effort needed to do a piece of work and hiding any enjoyment we might feel. One of the most common characteristics, and often a very counter-cultural feature, of nerd or geek communities is that they allow for up-front enjoyment of whatever it is – comic books or TV shows or board games. (Caveat: there are socially approved spaces where things are very different. For reasons which are not obvious to me, all the examples which come to my mind are focussed on sports.)
Are Quakers counter-cultural enough when it comes to this trend against zeal? We’re naturally wary of the kind of zeal which wants everyone to enjoy the things we enjoy; but sometimes we slip into not acknowledging what we enjoy about the things we do. We are asked to serve, and in due course stop serving, “without undue pride or guilt” (A&Q 28), but enjoyment – and indeed frustration and many others things commonly encountered in the course of such service – is not the same thing. Indeed, to be “ardently active, devoted, or diligent” sounds to me like just what is needed. Are you zealous in undertaking the work that love requires of you?