September 15, 2006

Something to push against

Over at The Quaking Harlot there is a post that makes a brief reference to the blogger's concern of being told how to blog, how to be a proper Quaker, how to be "QC" (as opposed to PC).

I struggle not to take some of what is written there, and within the comments, personally. You see, I was one of the bloggers who engaged in the possibility of a blogging Faith & Practice. And my most recent post describes what I have experienced as a form of Quaker blog etiquette, especially among some early Quaker bloggers who seemed to appreciate each other's care in writing.

I don't know if the Quaking Harlot was directing a comment at me, but I do see this as an opportunity to share a bit about my choice to engage in the Q-blogosphere in the way I have been, to make explicit some of my process in order to reduce readers' guesswork about why I write some of what I do.

Here's my theory:

Quakers need something to push against.
We're not always so disciplined about entrusting our committees to thresh an idea and to bring back to the meeting a thoroughly seasoned proposal. We'll pick it apart, question why X was explored but not Y, like the idea of carpet rather than linoleum but prefer blue over green.

But let the proposal season for a month and Friends start to see the care and creativity that went into it. And one more month of seasoning allows the initial resistance to melt away. As if Friends simply needed permission to say No before they could yield to say Yes or even Maybe.

So it is that some of my posts are launched as trial balloons. After all, an individual does not a committee make. And if a post gives a reader something to push against, to hone her or his own thinking, then some good has come out of it after all.

Blogging Faith & Practice

When the idea was broached for a blogging F&P, I was skeptical at first, I admit. But I've been skeptical about other suggestions, including the use of the term convergent and that turned out alright...

The way that the blogging F&P was "turning out," well, I found I had something to say, so I said it. Not right away, and not frequently. In that way, I feel like I was being a part of someone's clearness committee. The committee doesn't cast a vote and neither does it dismiss the Friend's idea right away. The committee listens. It works to help the Friend understand how God is leading her or him, and the committee helps the Friend test the leading itself:
  • Does the leading persist?

  • Is the Friend's own learning increased somehow?

  • Does the leading bear fruit, such as patience, lovingkindness, self-control?

  • As time goes by, does the Friend have an increased "felt-sense" that she or he is well led?

  • Is the leading congruent with Quaker practice? with Scripture?
  • And then there is the concept of living into the experiment, to see how direct experience of the thing might indicate the rightness of the leading... or not.

    I would say, from my experience, that the concept of an online Faith & Practice is not right for this time, this cyber-place, this current set of bloggers.

    But I'm not sure it will never be right, either.

    No right way to write a Q-blog

    There is no precise, singular way to be a Quaker, though there are practices and processes that are intended to help us discover how to live into the measure of Light we've been given, and how to come together as a community to engage in worship and to tend to business.

    It's also clear to me that there is no precise, singular way to write or maintain a Quaker blog. But I personally don't believe that we Quaker bloggers are doing something completely unrelated to one another, that we use completely disconnected or independent practices.

    In fact, I know my own practice of writing posts and submitting comments is an extension of what I understood, assumed, or interpreted that the original Q-bloggers were doing--even if I couldn't know if any blogger was engaging in careful discernment or in stream-of-consciousness writing.

    So I wrote about the etiquette that seemed to go into the Quaker blogs that kept drawing me back to them, week after week; the comments that got me thinking and seemed to advance the conversation.

    Was it my place to write such a post? Maybe not; maybe it was (or is) too individualistic of me to put my thoughts out there.

    (BTW, I had considered not publishing that post for that very reason: there had been no online "committee" to thresh such a thing... but that gets back to the whole online F&P topic...)

    But I recognize now, days later and with my own finger pointing back at me after reading the post at The Quaking Harlot, that I had also written the post to see how or if others might push against it:
    Was I way off the mark?

    Would what I wrote resonate with others bloggers?

    Would another blogger take a kernel of what was there and turn that kernel into something of significance for the rest of us to read?

    Radical community

    If we see ourselves as separate from one another, with no interconnection between us, then I agree with what Quaking Harlot writes, that the cyber-culture of Quaker blogs will more and more "resemble the current status-quo of Quakerism" (and I assume it's Liberal Quakerism to which QH refers).

    But if we see ourselves as interconnected despite the cyber-distance that separates us; if we allow for the possibility that we may be opened and transformed by the Spirit of God that speaks through our blogposts, then the self-same cyber-culture of Quaker blogs can more and more resemble the radical covenant community that God yearns for and that some of us are working to restore.



    Anonymous said...

    Hi, Liz!

    For what it's worth, I've just written a set of advices on how to comment at blog sites, which I've placed on the navigation bar at my blog site.

    It's something that I think most people don't need -- they know all that stuff already. But it might be helpful for a few.

    Comments would be welcome, naturally.

    Anonymous said...

    I am all for guidelines here and there or else we kind of just flail around aimlessly. Isn't this the point of learning, and discipleship, and maturing? And isn't that something we all desire at some level? I agree with you Liz and I appreciated the ideas you put forth here.

    Chris Frazier from Q2 also shares your theory about Quakers needing to be against things - and I wonder how this may be causing much deeper issues systemically than just blogging? I think that can be for a later dated though.

    Cat C-B (and/or Peter B) said...

    Thank you for this post. I have liked your previous posts on this thread, too... I think because I have found it easy for me to "listen" to your posts in a way that helps me gain clearness along the way. In a sense, though I'm not sure a Q-blog F&P makes sense, I do feel as if the blogs I treasure most, and the comments of my favorite bloggers, act as a kind of clearness committee for me.

    In that light, I especially appreciated the queries you presented on testing leadings.

    Like you, I think I sometimes blog what I do in order to get some of the "push back" you write about from other bloggers.

    I have no doubts that we are interconnected "despite the cyber-distance that separates us," and that, when we can find it and be faithful to it, the kind of "radical community" (or is it "sense of community"?) you write about is a powerful, even a delicious reflection of Spirit. But then, it's hard to find and be faithful to flesh-and-blood community, even when we're standing right in it. We're bound to fail--quite a lot--in finding those connections. A lot of the communications we send won't be the right words at the right time.

    But sometimes they will, I think. (Your words often are for me.) And that's worth risking being "too individualistic", or seeming arrogant, or making mistakes and being wrong. I think as long as we can forgive one another our inevitable stumblings, it's still helpful, despite the difficulty of seasoning our ideas in any communal Quaker way. We can still try, as long as we stay a little humble.

    Or, at least, that's what it seems to me.

    Liz Opp said...

    Wess - Thanks for your comment and for the mention of Chris Frazier's Quaker 2.0. Do you have a specific link for the post which you refer to? And I'd be curious to hear more from you about "deeper systemic issues" that Quakers may have, about "needing to be against things." That idea makes me go Hmmmmm...

    Cat - Glad you are finding some of what I write "serviceable." smile As for the queries on testing leadings, they are a paraphrase of what Paul Lacey has written, particularly his Pendle Hill Pamphlet (#264), which is plainly called "Leading and Being Led."

    I also agree with you, Cat, that forgiving one another "our inevitable stumblings" is a part of the work of being in a blessed community.