Archive for September, 2006

The language of love

September 20, 2006

Last night I flew from Auckland to Christchurch. I was exhausted after a long day of running workshops and just wanted to sleep. As a part of the ‘make sure your seatbelts are buckled, your seat upright’ announcement, the crew member accidentally said we were going to Wellington. The woman in the seat next to me made a comment, and this got us started talking.

It turned out she was one of the leading lights in the refugee resettlement programme in NZ. New Zealand is the only country in the world where every single refugee gets met at the airport by volunteers and welcomed into the country. The volunteers go through a very comprehensive training programme to help them understand the cultural differences. Each refugee family is assigned a NZ family who commits to staying in touch with them and actively supporting them for the first six months they are here. Some of the stories she told about the reactions from the refugees to the way they felt about how they are treated in NZ were just inspiring and very moving. Having come from countries where conflict and hatred is rife, to a country where people who are so different from them welcome and love them seems a very powerful thing.

She was also a very committed anglican christian, and spoke about how her faith really made all this possible. A lot of the language she used was very different to that which Quakers use. She talked about how God asked her to do things, about speaking directly with God and asking for clarity or guidance, about God ‘giving her a scripture’, and about praying for people.

It became clear that this was possibly just different language for the same things that I experience. Quakers talk about being led, about waiting in the silence, about a particular piece of ministry (spoken or written) speaking to our condition, and about holding people in the light. I still find the anthropomorphisation of God that is common in a lot of ‘christian speak’ difficult to deal with. Talking with this woman made me more aware of how it’s possible we really are talking about the same thing. We might have different words for it, we might even have quite different pictures in our heads about what God is, and how communication with the divine happens, but at the heart of it, the truth is the truth.

To me it’s like how there are so many different words for love, in so many different languages, but love is still love.

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Slacker

September 16, 2006

I think I’ve forgotten how to be a slacker. I was very good at it when I was a student, actually much better than most. I cruised through my degree, majoring mostly in video games and socialising.  I slept in till lunchtime most days, went to a few lectures in the afternoon and slacked around with my flatmates in the evening.

Somehow though, somewhere along the way I’ve lost the knack.  Even when I’m resting I’m doing it on purpose.  My life is so full, there is so much to do, and it’s all so interesting and exciting. This is great, but I do have a tendency to take too much on, and then get exhausted.

I’ve said before, that people in my family seem to have two settings, fast and off. Thinking about it though, this isn’t always so much about speed, as intensity. When we do something we do it fully, we throw ourselves into it with complete commitment. Maybe when I was at University, I was just throwing myself into being a slacker. Maybe now I’m just doing it again, but it’s working and being involved in Quakers that I’m throwing myself into.

In a week we’re going to Golden Bay for JYF camp. The theme is “cheerfully doing more with less”. On the one hand this is very appealing, as simplicity is something that I have much to learn about. But the doing more part? I don’t need to be doing more. So maybe for me the camp can be about cheerfully doing less with less. Then perhaps I’ll remember how to be a slacker again.

Jokos and Quesons

September 3, 2006

In my family we’ve developed two terms, quesons and jokos. A joko is the sort of joke that isn’t actually funny that kids make up between the ages of about 4 and 7. For example “knock knock, who’s there? Trousers, trousers who? Trousers on your head hahahaha”, or “how many boots does a centipede wear? 20”

A queson is the type of difficult question children ask, that doesn’t really have an answer, like “why is a man a man?” Sometimes quesons can be frustrating, and make me want to say “just because”. Sometimes they’re difficult to answer because to do them justice would require an answer more sophisticated than the child is capable of really taking in. But more often than not, they’re quite poignant, and really make me think.

I’ve decided that quesons are often similar to questions of a spiritual nature, especially Zen koan. Koan are the kind of impossible question Zen teachers ask their students to help them expand their thinking, kind of like mental gym equipment. The most well known examples are “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” and “if a tree falls in a forest when noone is there, does it make a sound?”.

As a parent I’m starting to embrace quesons. They make me think about my response, about how I can help my kids start learning how to look for the answers themselves. Because I can’t answer them easily I’m forced to explore them together with my kids. So I’m taking “just because” out of my vocabulary, and learning to love questions I can’t answer.