Since posting my first discussion no one has commented on the topic. I was wondering if self-expression is the problem? I have known many people in Christ centered churches not Quaker, who are afraid of self expression. They don't believe the world at large is supposed to see anything in them personally. A favorite expression is " I don't want people to see me, I just want them to see Jesus" To which I ask Why? If you have some  belief that you are created, and if there is that of God in you as Quakers say they believe, then what's wrong with people seeing you? Is that too honest? Why are you Unique, as most proclaim we are, if your expression is to be hidden at all cost? It seems that Quakers, as well as traditional Christians, are afraid of speaking whats inside them, unless they believe its profound, or cloaked in acceptable religious conclusions that no one can fault. I am not talking about lunatic rantings, just honest expression. When I began to try and separate my self from religious language, and even flowery flattery of God, or Christ, what was left was just me. Yeah, it was and is scary.And for the record I am not always completely honest, in my attempts.To write about my REAL LIFE struggles, my not always shining moments and not wrap it up with a relevant bible writing, (pie in the sky, by and by, just a poor wayfaring stranger, we'll understand it better by and by, which are not actual bible writings just cliche's derived from bible writings) sometimes leaves me uncomfortable. What is your experience worth if your not honest about it? So again I ask as an artist, and a Quaker, or spirit concerned person, do you see the divine in your expression, or  does your expression have to mirror a set definition of the divine?

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Hi Anne,

I know I didn't respond to your earlier discussion topic because it appeared to be addressed to musicians, and I'm not a musician. I could respond as a writer. My monthly meeting has many artists, painters, sculptors, dancers, a calligrapher, actors and directors, and several writers and many musicians. I don't have the sense that self expression is frowned upon. On the contrary, the meeting seems to attract a higher than usual concentration of people who work in the arts. (Even some of the scientists see their work as creative self expression!)

When I was younger I was a poet, but then went through years of writer's block, which wasn't caused by religion. I have felt a growing ability to write again developing out of Quaker faith and practice, and I want my writing to express, without religious cliches or glossing over my faults and pain, what I have received from the Divine. It isn't easy, but I think if I do it faithfully my writing will express who I am, honestly.
If you can put it into words Rosemary, what do you think you have received from the Divine or Quaker faith, that helps you express who you are?
Well, you asked for it! I'm hoping to write a book about it, eventually. I feel I can only describe it in stories, like the old Quaker spiritual autobiographies and journals, because if you try to sum it up you just end up with cliches.

But I can tell you one story that embodies some of what I have received. Years ago my husband and I moved to the country, and we really loved living in the midst of the woods, learning all about the native plants and animals. We were pretty isolated there, though, so that when we had a baby, I started to find it a little lonely and depressing. We stayed because we loved the land so much, and had another boy a couple years later. Then our first son was diagnosed with autism and the isolation started to seem like a serious problem. He needed therapists, other children to play with, a school, and so on. We started sending him to a special needs preschool located in a public school near town. To get there, we drove to a beautiful place called "Milton," which was just a crossroads on a hill overlooking a river.

I had a dream one night about that place. I was standing with a woman with black hair who was holding a small piece of blue glass, and we were high in the air above the crossroads looking down at the bridge. There was total silence in the dream, and wind.

At the time I didn't understand it. Later I wondered if it might have been a sort of "leaving the garden of Eden" dream. I wondered if the woman had been an angel showing me the way forward. We had to grow up, leave our delightful little hideaway, and dedicate ourselves to caring for our son. That meaning still seems true to me. Dreams are like poems, though; they just get more and more meaningful over time, if they're important. Later, after I had been practicing Quakerism for awhile, I had some new insight about it that really changed my understanding of my relationship with God.

I had tended to see life as a series of choices and to believe that God wanted me to make one choice and not the other. Every decision was like standing at a crossroads, and I would say to God, "Which way do you want me to go?" It was very hard to get answers, and I often felt very anxious about it, fearful that I might make a mistake. And yet the choices I was considering were rarely choices between sinful behavior and obedience to God's clear boundaries. They were various seemingly good ideas about how to care for my family.

What I came to understand about the dream was that the angel was there with me in silence. She wasn't pointing a finger one way or another. The blue glass was like something to see through, and similarly she had brought me high up in the air as if to get a clear view all around. I wondered if the Holy Spirit meant to help me to see more, to make better informed choices. Perhaps I am asked to think for myself, you know? The Spirit of Love is with me, in mercy and wisdom, keeping me company, but is not a holy drill sergeant issuing orders.

It's one thing to read that God gives us freedom to be even more ourselves than we might have been, that God wants us to be "co-creators." But I found it only changed my life when I knew it "experimentally."
I missed the discussion (That's easy to do here somehow; it doesn't mean anyone wants to miss a good post!)

I do find a lot of Quakers timid about self-expression (though I doubt this is a problem specific to us!)
Sometimes, to be truly myself, I need to risk a little rant! (If I didn't, the stones would have to speak, and they're shy!) And I don't always like the response, but that's precisely what I need to risk sometimes, to be any good for anything or anyone...

"If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you."

I unfortunately can't tell, from this, what the discussion I missed was about... so now to go see!
Thanks for sharing.I do agree that our choices in life are rarely right or wrong. I know what you mean about stories. It's not usually just one defining word, or moment but a series of events that guide a decision. That takes a story to describe. I guess the reason I had this impression about other Quakers, is because of the agonizing over speaking in meeting. Which I know most Quakers would say, is entirely different. I have heard so many words of caution ( in bulletins and such) Usually the same people speak every meeting. Except of course when there are visitors who don't know the drill and they just get up and spill their guts. There was a note published asking people who were asking for something to be "held to the light" to cut details and maybe just say the name. The jist of the post was, all those outbursts of people's pain were harshing their spiritual high.( My words not theirs) It went on to say that members of the caring committee could listen to them after meeting if they needed to expound on the situation. To me all these things say: we only want to hear you, if your going to say what we want to hear, and oh if your in pain, try not to bleed on the floor! We just had it waxed. As you may have guessed I am not a birth-right Quaker, so maybe it's like buying a new house, I only see the problems. Anyway I can't see the agonizing over speaking, most people try to say only what they really believe they should. You could waste your whole life trying to live up to everyone's expectations and still not show who you are.A.S.
Being a song-writer, I don't know anything really about writing poetry. I never studied it formally. In song writing I try to describe what I feel about a situation, usually something in my life. I've tried to write about other things but it's never went very well. You know how some can write songs about world issues, traditional folk songwriters. Pete Seger and such. I guess my point was if people could and would write about their real life, not some religious fantasy, there could be some really good sign posts that we may be missing. A.S.
What you write about 'just me' turns out to be about everything else, if you do it right.

What makes "religious fantasy" mere fantasy is people's fear that if they stop fantasizing it will go away. It doesn't.
Whoever wrote that note... was taking on the role of Cain. Trying to deny that painful connection to others. (The rabbis said, "God did not curse Cain for killing his brother, but for asking, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' ")

I've always felt that our various guidelines and cautions about when and how much to speak in Meeting were mistaken, intended for people's emotional convenience at the expense of stifling the Spirit. If we were truly In The Spirit consistently enough there would be no offense given or taken; if someone were merely babbling, someone else could merely deal with it; we would not have this MYTHOLOGY to defend: the implication that we are 'channeling' God rather than merely speaking on God's behalf-- under God's instigation and guidance, but subject to error and rightly subject to correction, under that same guidance, in a spirit of love and truth...
You mentioned in an earlier post, you have to risk, to speak. Even if you don't like the response. Of course we can be and often are wrong, but if you don't speak where you are, how can you ever get anywhere else? As far as people "eldering" each other when someone thinks your in error, I say by whose measure? I guess this is just one of those things I'll always see differently then some. I just don't say anything in meeting, when I go. In my music however, I sing what I feel, and if my perspective is incomplete, hopefully I'll see a bigger picture eventually. A.S.
At the same time, if no one ever said anything about what we hope might happen in Worship and how it grows out of stillness within, meeting would often devolve into nothing but talk. There's something beyond self expression that we strive for, whatever name you give it.

I don't think of it as "agonizing" about whether one should speak. That suggests neurosis to me. I see it as a discipline, learning discernment, a practice. It doesn't happen if you don't think there's anything to learn. But it's easy also to over-emphasize the discipline and lose all freedom, too. Of course, mistakes along the way are necessary, just as they are when you learn to play an instrument.

Myth is the deepest, most important kind of story-telling.
True enough Rosemary, that being said, there are a lot of cautions put out there. I have heard people express a reluctance to have their words questioned. Maybe thats the rub, people just have to say what they believe there supposed to say, and if it's mis-understood, or discounted not worry about it. I think some of the Cautions I've heard, especially the one about holding to the light, give me the impression not much would be excepted. You probably don't agonize over speaking, but I listened to some talk as though they do. My point being, If there is that of God in everyone, how far off can you be? A.S.


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