I’ve mentioned that some time ago I created a Facebook group called Quakers Welcome Spiritual Seekers, hoping to have a Quaker presence on social media. My thought was that people looking for something to address their interest in spiritual matters, and not finding that in churches, might be interested in Quakers. And social media is where people often look for information these days.
Recently a new member asked the following question:
I was wondering how many Quakers today actually practice trying to live a more simple life? We have all we could possibly want, the gadgets, clothes and the cars etc.. but how many actually practice the original sort of Quakerism?
That person included the following quotation, “we were meant to live simply enjoying the experiences of life, the people of life, and the journey of life–not the things of life.” Joshua Becker
Following is my response:
Welcome … and thanks for the question. Of course no one speaks for all Quakers. That said, simplicity and materialism are an area where I personally feel many Quakers are failing. There are a number of Quakers who work very hard to live simply in many ways, but too many others have become comfortable. Environmental damage has been one of my main concerns. About 40 years ago I made the decision to refuse to have a personal automobile, but have been singularly unsuccessful in convincing anyone else to do the same. My meeting is in rural Iowa, and most members live in rural areas, so there are obvious challenges related to transportation.
My meeting does share this concern. Some have solar panels. We did this past year approve the Minute on ethical transportation you can read about at the link below. One thing we are encouraging Friends to do is make more use of bicycles, even in rural areas. https://jeffkisling.com/2017/07/31/ethical-transportation-2/
I realize that saying ‘simplicity and materialism are an area where I personally feel many Quakers are failing’ could get me in trouble. It is my impression that Conservative Friends do a much better job of living simply than many, but I was including other Friends as well in that observation, thinking the seekers on that Facebook page may have experience with, or might soon connect with other Friends near them. (And of course people looking at the Facebook page may live anywhere in the world).
Although Friends often hear me talk about my concerns related to personal automobiles, energy conservation continues to be one of the most effective ways we can personally reduce our environmental impact.
Along those lines, I was blessed to hear some admittedly elderly Friends share stories about life when they were growing up, after meeting for worship in Indianola last night.
- We didn’t have electricity or running water. (I might add we had a party line telephone, no television, and an outhouse for the bathroom)
- We broke a lot of glasses that we had taken upstairs during the night (as the water turned to ice)
- There was no heat upstairs
- We wrapped the kids in a cocoon of multiple blankets with only their arms outside
- We heated stones on the stove, and put them in the beds before we got into them
- We used bottles of warm water for the same purpose
- The first thing we did in the morning was open, and sit on the door of the stove to warm up
- Sometimes we had to be picked up by someone in a horse and buggy when the school bus was stuck on the muddy roads
- (There was also mention of mud-ball fights)
One Friend remarked “that is why we are so healthy today.”