Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I realized somewhat acutely, in some recent discussions here on Q2, that we're sometimes miles apart in our use of terms, without even realizing it sometimes.
In looking over archival copies of what dad and his team put together, for Libya, looking ahead some twenty or more years, I'm impressed by a confidant 1960s, a time of going to the moon.
Urban planning was something to get a degree in, a new discipline in the US. I was born while dad was finishing up his PhD studies at the University of Chicago, soon to make a career in Portland, Oregon, however with long range plans to work overseas.
We left the country in the late 60s, me through with 2nd grade, and moved to Rome.
Fast forward and I find myself delving into the writings of one Anthony Judge, whom I think of as more Eurocentric than I am (not a criticism, that's his background).
In this latest paper I ran across on Twitter, he's talking about Brexit and our "binary" winner-take-all democracies. How is it that a "tyrannical majority" is the end result we seek? Have we alternatives?
I'm thinking Libertarians define themselves as wishing to escape tyranny, of a majority or otherwise. Am I one of them?
I discovered recently, in reading Alfred North Whitehead, that he defines the progress of civilization itself as one of ridding our world of coercive relationships, in the sense of one commanding blind and unquestioning obedience from another.
We become as robots then. AI has won, not in creating robots like us, but in dehumanizing us to become as robots. Real Intelligence (RI) must oppose that outcome. Which is not to decry AI in all its forms out of reflex. One could say we rely to an extreme extent on automation, if only that of our own bodies.
The so-called "will" is a sensitive animal, and of that I wish to remain mindful. Where we draw that line, between voluntary and involuntary, is a matter for deepening meditation. After all, we're all moving in the direction of our own demise, as these specific individuals, these outward forms. Back to being God's guinea pigs (more below).
How Quakerism now figures in, for me, is twofold:
(A) in the unprogrammed Meeting, we find the organs of autonomy, of self government carried on by "a village of equals" (not unlike the kibbutz concept I'm guessing; I visited one once, near Bethlehem, after that summer digging a swimming pool in Ramallah -- about sixteen at the time, parents doing AFSC work).
(B) experimentalism: a willingness to "know experimentally". We "test leadings" and ask Oversight to convene committees for clearness and support. It's not about blindly accepting one another's preachings. Our practice of silence underlies our respect for the Spirit over our own inadequate ministries. As parts, none of us speak for the whole, but we're all moved by the whole.
We've been focusing of late in our discussions, about how these experiments in self government do sometimes break down. We feel our sense of good order insulted, witness malpractice on all sides. I'm not denying what my wife called "the perpetually unsatisfactory nature of life". Life is suffering, no doubt. This "pursuit of happiness" thing, whatever that means, is a metaphysical workout. We're called to move forward by a will greater than our own.
What I see around schooling in particular though are cries like "don't experiment with our kids" or "our children are not guinea pigs". I'd agree they're not "ours" per se, more God's, but as for not experimenting, how can we help but not? Trying to relive the past in some nostalgic detail could only be considered experimental. There's no "keeping it the same" or "holding still" while we sit back and "figure it out". There's no pause button.
Isn't trial and error going forward what we've got, with intelligent (educated) guesses in favor of best outcomes? Hypotheses? Feels like we're guinea pigs to me. But the only will I willingly surrender to is received through God's grace, as some might put it, though I'm not insistent on invoking a deity by proper name. The experience is what matters. Yielding to God is about remaining truthful or one might say "obedient to the truth" (fine to talk about Will to Power here).
Finally, I'll jump from my perch in Quakerism, to this literature I've been calling transcendentalism, mostly for continuity as I want to point back to Margaret Fuller, Emerson, Thoreau, that crew, early Dial Magazine and so on. Bucky Fuller was Margaret Fuller's great grand nephew somehow. New England family. She died in shipwreck at sea.
With transcendentalism I get a futurism, but without any across-the-board anti-religious polemic, as some are led to profess. I'm not preaching science versus not-science as a war we're obligated to join sides in.
I do get planning and creating conditions for a better tomorrow. Stuff like that. More a Teilhard de Chardin thing. Teleological.
The self organizing going on feels a lot bigger than "just us". As individuals, we're caught up in it, with limited self-steering capabilities.
Back to Anthony Judge and the tyrannical majority, I'm thinking many small experiments, more affordable thanks to newer tech, will keep many communities engaged in skill-building in creative ways, satisfying to look back on. They'll try different ways of life. The many religions will find their followers. Companies are communities too.
I'm currently on a "small is beautiful" kick in thinking a "one size fits all" strategy is unnecessary and even dangerous (too risky). When someone champions some new experiment, it's not suddenly something the whole world needs to be into.
We act locally. Even within a shared urban setting, we're not uniform. It's with that realization and assurance that we're not world takeover types that we get buy-in for more affordable scenarios, more like movies or plays (theatrical productions, don't have to be military).
So a Liberal, to me, is more of the "live and let live school" wherein communities are allowed to experiment, without forcing their lifestyle choices on the rest of us. We might expect a phase in life where we "shop around", looking for our tribe. We're talking millions of tribes.
How different from what I just described is our world of today? That's debatable. I'm clearly hoping many more Quaker communities will be established, some with a high tech agrarian mix. Organic farms using Linux and smart devices. Close to the land.
Where we part ways as Global U teachers is precisely in how we choose to use our terms differently. Does the word "tribe" sound like a put down? Offensive? There's a sorting out that goes on as we engage in work-study within our Global U. There's a search for one's people.
However there's no crime or sin in having our own vocabularies and shop talks. Local meaning emerges naturally among groups. That's precisely what to accept and not discourage. Diversity is a feature, not a bug.
The challenge is to then stay aware of and responsive to the need to be clear and reflective, given all this diversity as a backdrop.
Related reading in another journal: