Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
This is not art, only a story.
I have felt drawn to Quakerism for a long time, which is rather strange as Quakerism is an exotic concept where I live. I don't even know how I realized that Quakers actually exist.
I have attended meditation sessions and I've always loved the peace and calmness that they bring to the room and to the group of meditators. Like the quiet in the eye of a hurricane, like cool rain on dusty earth, like a weight being lifted from the shoulders, like breathing in deeply, like a light growing in your soul.
The two kinds of meditation sessions I went to had a Catholic and a Hindu background - they were wonderful but somehow left me with the feeling that they tried to narrow down God to fit certain theological concepts - I felt this was like cutting up the sky to fit it in your small pocket.
Then I went to Oxford. Quite by chance I happened to walk past the small white house with the small red door of the Oxford Quakers. And, quite by chance, the conference I was to attend and that started on the next day would start late enough to allow me to go to the Quaker meeting first.
You see, where I live, there is a Quaker meeting but I've been hesitating to call them. Yes, slightly cowardly, I know, what's the worst that can happen? But as this is the only meeting within a large area I want to be sort of...prepared before I turn up there.
So, haste with me to the Oxford Quaker meeting at 8 a.m. the next morning.
And there I stood, in front of the small red door of the Oxford Quakers, and stood there and stood there and stood there. Nobody turned up and I felt that my courage was getting used up.
Just when I resolved to leave, a very very old and wizened gentleman turned up, looking like Tolkien might look if he were still alive, and speaking exactly as you'd expect Tolkien to speak. We introduced each other and he told me he'd been going to Quaker meetings for eight years and never ever had been all alone (except for a novice and nervous Austrian). We stood there and wondered for a while, then he rang the door bell, explaining to me that somebody was living on the top floor and maybe could explain where the man who was supposed to have the keys was. He rang the doorbell an rang again and I felt curious and curiouser, when the flopping of slippers could be heard and the turning of a key in the lock and then the door flew open and a giant of a man wearing furry slippers and a bathrobe was standing there.
At 8:15 in the morning.
I felt slightly faint, but Mr. Tolkien didn't. After some deliberation they decided they would call the man who was supposed to come round with the keys after the meeting, but first Mr. Tolkien and I would have the meeting and the giant would go back to bed.
So we did.
The giant thumped up the stairs and I followed Mr. Tolkien into a small, slightly worn living room of a typical semi-detached English house. Instead of the usual furniture, there were chairs put in a circle.
We lit a candle.
And the silence began.
The quiet in the eye of the hurricane, the cool rain on dusty earth, the weight being lifted from the shoulders, the breathing-in deeply, the light, oh, the light.
We sat for a long time and when I opened my eyes and looked out of the window, a saw lush English greenery and, in the foreground, one perfect rose.
For a moment, I felt that this rose and this garden were glowing with the presence of the Light.
And then, another while later, the meeting ended, Mr. Tolkien and I parted ways and I went back to my conference.
And now there is me, with this strange and wonderful and beautiful meeting in my memory, still hesitating to call the local Quakers. Will there be Mr. Tolkien, will there be a stranger in a bathrobe and furry slippers, will there be a rose? Will there be the light?