The creation of this wonderfully inspiring website is coincidental with my own struggle to find a purpose in creativity and spirituality. Although I have not had the misfortune to lose my job, to create the impetus for change, I have been wandering about for several years lost in the proverbial wilderness. Being a sister of the Founder, I too was brought up in the nurturing arms of Quakerism, and my artistic activities were encouraged when I was young.
I also have been a casualty of the computer revolution, from which I had to rise above and learn the new technology on my own, coordinating it with the old fashioned medium. I have made a lot of progress but I find myself now, like the Founder, searching for a way to use my experience to make a difference in the world, at least the world around me. I have slipped to a cyclical low. As we are all co-creators with God, I presently find myself feeling totally unable to create. With the exception of creative writing, apparently.
Although I have always treasured my ties to Quakerism, I was by and large, alienated from it by my husband's lack of support and my involvement with a community that was either Catholic or Protestant, and distinctly not Quaker. I found many good and kind people there but I have felt separated from them
In the course of the more than twenty-five years that I have been the prodigal child of my Quaker roots, I have also undergone a profound enlightenment. In the process of being separated from my God, I re-discovered Him. I traveled the world of man's religions and spiritual longings, facing storms of disapproval along the way. Sometimes I practiced my art, and in order to survive in the real world, I learned technology. But mostly I prayed, read, explored and begged of God, "Why? What am I doing here?" And I'm still asking now!
My question now is, why aren't more people aware of the wonderful possibilities of Quakerism? Why are there so few of us? Are we a secret society or something? I am educated well enough to know that there are many religions which place comfortable blinders on their constituents, and everyone is entitled to their own choice of pathways to God. At the risk of sounding elitist, the existence of the Inner Light (God within us) seems to me to be so obvious. The media has been full of the New Age, whose promises are not too far off the mark of Quakerism. I have even seen references to that of God in every man in the catechism of today's Roman Catholic Church. God is inside all of us. Even the terrorists. (Some people's blinders are thicker and let in no light at all.)
If not Quaker practices and structures, then the basic underlying message of Quakers, which is the Inner Light of God. I wonder if I had not been born to privilege in a Quaker family, would I have discovered God the way I have these last twenty-five years? There I go, sounding elitist again. I am not an elitist, honest. I would have found God somehow. He would have spoken to me in the wind, the sky, the ocean, the mountains and the sunlight just the same.
It is probable that in the infant days of our American history, there was a much higher percentage of Quakers in the population than there is now. But let's face it, our nation has grown and changed so much, with the addition of a huge variety of cultures and religions. And everyone thinks theirs is the right one. Tolerance is something all of us could work on. There is still hope for Quaker light to flourish, however. There was a glimmer of it in the sixties, as I recall, and we could easily turn up the wattage now.
I have always tried to be respectful of other people's beliefs and ways of doing things. Even the ones who really make me mad. I was taught to do this in the Quaker home of my childhood. I don't like to be preachy but there are moments when I secretly hope that I can teach somebody else about that of God in every man. At least set an example of kindness, forgiveness and longsuffering, and hope that it rubs off. The word evangelism is extreme, yet we could all be evangelists in a subtle, more lasting way, without ever opening our mouths. The more we do this for ourselves, our children, our friends and the strangers we meet, the more candles will come out from under the bushels. Imagine what a Light that would be.
Valerie Morrissey is a graphic artist from Wyckoff, New Jersey.
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