Tag Archives: Advices and Queries

Paddling hard or going with the flow?

This morning I walked to Meeting for Worship through the park. My route takes me next to a stream for much of the way, and at one place I saw a duck. This is a pretty common occurrence, but I noticed this duck because it was in the stream, well out from the sides, but seemed to be still. At first I thought the stream must be shallower than it looked, and the duck standing on the bottom. Then I realised that the duck was puddling upstream at exactly the same speed as the water was flowing downstream, so that it was working hard to stay in one place.

a tarmac path winds through autumn woodland, with trees on both sides

I didn’t manage to photograph the duck, so this is just a picture of a path in the same general area.

I took that image into meeting, where I was contemplating, as I often do, Advices & Queries 28: “undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt”. Sometimes it seems like however many things I stop doing, I’m still just as busy! Of course, that’s because new things start, or existing things expand, and I notice the ‘no’s more than the ‘yes’es especially when it’s a struggle or my decision needs a lot of explaining.

As I settle into my new flat – I’ve been in it for a year, but it still seems new! – and my new city – I’ve been here for two and a half years, but it still seems new! – and my new relationship – less than six months, that genuinely is new 🙂 – I’m finding myself needing more space and unscheduled time, or perhaps being more accepting of my need for space and unscheduled time. When you’re hunting for a job, everyone expects to be able to see your feet paddling as hard as possible, even if – like the duck in the park – you’re only going fast enough to stay still. Stopping, turning round and going with the flow, seems inconceivable.

“A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength,” says another passage in Advices & Queries (41). I find it’s much easier to ‘choose’ a ‘simple’ lifestyle if you already have certain things which are not simple at all, or easy to obtain. I can say no to paid work much more easily when I already have enough paid work to cover my bills, and I can say no to voluntary work much more easily when nobody is demanding to see my CV or asking me what I’m doing to develop my skills or build my professional networks. Is that really a choice, or an expression of the privileges which come with being middle class, white, educated and employed?

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A is for… Advices and Queries

Advices and Queries form the first part of Quaker Faith and Practice (which can be read in full at the link). It’s published online, as the first chapter of the big red book, as a small red booklet, and in Welsh (also as a small red booklet). It’s an appropriate place to start, as it’s probably the first Quaker text most people read.

(It wasn’t the first Quaker book I read, although I first read it a long time ago; that was probably Thy Friend, Obadiah.)

Advices and Queries consists of exactly that: the draft version of our current text (accepted by Britain Yearly Meeting in 1994) was called Questions and Counsel. There’s lots of good stuff in there, but you can read it for yourself and this is my blog, so I want to pick out some which are meaningful to me.

I struggle with a lot of it. I see a tendency in myself to become defensive in the face of the questions. “Are you open to the healing power of God’s love?” No, I’m not. Maybe if God got on with actually healing one of the things that hurts me, I might be more prepared to negotiate. I think this answer is only partially true, though; it comes from a place of suffering, and of feeling that my emotional responses to suffering are incorrect. (A is also for Anger, not a word Quakers like.) In the ways I act, I can sometimes spot my openness to God’s love as a healing force: bringing my suffering to Meeting, week in and week out; holding f/Friends in the Light as they struggle with all sorts of issues; and the patience and determination I use to stick with the processes of healing, be they spiritual, allopathic, or psychological.

To some other parts of the Advices and Queries, though, I can respond with a whole-hearted Yes. “Do you welcome the diversity of culture, language and expressions of faith in our yearly meeting…?” (I’m still working on my knowledge of the world community of Friends.) My favourite Advice is still that offered in relation to marriage, but applicable to so much more: “In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.”

(In fact, I think that should be the motto for the Quaker Blog Project!)

All of it is much quoted, so I’m not going to be able to pick out a bit that you won’t have heard before. Instead, in closing, I’m going to pick out the bit I must like to follow, which is: “seek to know one another in the things which are eternal” (I’m not quite so keen on bearing the burden of each other’s failings, although I’m very glad that people put up with mine!). In blogging, I try to be truthful, though one cannot capture the whole truth in a post; I hope that it helps you to know me in those things which may, insert some philosophical qualifiers here, be eternal. I will be reading other blogs with interest in pursuit of the same goal.