Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Simple gifts

Yesterday I went to see a sci fi flic called "District 9" with my South African Friends Andre and Debrah, along with their son Jarryd and daughter Sarina, shown here in front of the landmark Culver City Hotel (circa 1928).

I enjoy good sci fi--I even wrote a sci fi novel called "Relics of America"--and found this one to be very engaging. The idea of connecting the aliens with the blacks under apartheid in S. Africa is very clever, and the director made good use of inexperienced (but very talented) actors to create the effect of a documentary. It was also fun to see the film with some savvy S. Africans who knew (and explained) the in jokes and references.

After the film, I went with my S. African Friends to a Greek fast food restaurant. Much to my surprise, and delight, they treated me!

Today I treated my friend Kathy to lunch at Govinda's. She is back from Japan, where she took her 14-year-old nephew on his first big international adventure. Kathy deserves a treat for being such a world-class aunt as well as for being such a dear Friend!

This afternoon I biked down to the beach and decided not to boogie board because it was cool and cloudy. Instead, I went to the library and picked up books on Australia, including one on the founding of Australia by Robert Hughes (whom I mainly know as a savvy art critic).

I am looking forward to going to Australia in December and attending the Parliament of World's Religions. For the past few weeks I've been in touch with a delightful Australian Friend named Trish who is helping me find accommodations and people to visit. She has set me up for eight free days at the Friends House in Melbourne and is helping me to find home stays with Friends.

That's one of the things I love about Friends--our hospitableness. Anywhere I go in the world, I know that I can visit and stay with Friends who will treat me like family.

This week I had a video conversation with Trish via Skype--which was quite amazing. We talked for half an hour for free, and were even able to see each other. O brave new small world that has such friendly gadgets in it!

I am now in the process of selling Kathleen's Honda and thinking about how to dispose of the things that are being stored in our portable storage unit, or "POD." I am eager to get rid of all my excess stuff and live a simpler life. That's another good thing about being a Quaker--we make a virtue of simplicity. "Tis a gift to be simple," goes the old (Shaker) song that Friends love to sing. "Tis a gift to be free. Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be." I like the image of "coming down." Instead of scaling the spiritual heights, we go down, become humble and meek, and we connect with Spirit "in the valley of love and delight."

I feel as if I am sinking down, day by day, into a simpler life, one that enables me to appreciate with increasing delight good friends and the everyday joys of life as a gift of the Spirit.

I resonate with what Jennie Ratcliffe says about simplicity in a recent Pendle Hill pamphlet called "Integrity, Ecology, and Community: the Motion of Life" (PH 403):

"Moving toward simplicity--both materially and in our innermost being--requires us to be willing to empty ourselves, to submit ourselves to something that we recognize is greater than ourselves; it requires patience, compassion, and willingness to suffer, to remain teachable, and to forgive. Above all, the qualities we need are a radical humility and a radical love. Elaine Prevallet writes that 'the way to simplicity is the purifying way of love.' This simplifying purification, as I have said, does not demand self-denial or rejection of the material world., but a humility and love which allow us to do without those things, especially of the ego, that we imagine are necessary to our survival, but which separate us from relationships." (p. 20-21)

In other words, if your stuff (either inward or outward) gets in the way of your relationship with your friends, family, or God, get rid of it for love's sake!

How liberating it is when we finally come down to a "place just right" and know that we are not owned by our possessions, but simply have them on loan while we go about doing the work of the Spirit...what a blessing it is to give our lives freely and abundantly to friendship and love!

1 comment:

  1. Nice message, and I love the song "Simple Gifts."

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