Tuesday, November 29, 2011


You may not know this, but Quakers don’t have a set of beliefs that they all adhere to. (Some Quakers don’t even believe in a God – me, for instance.) What they do have are “testimonies” which are values they aspire to demonstrate in their lives. These are Simplicity, Truth and Integrity, Equality, Social Justice, Peace.

This last week I have been thinking about Simplicity. Here’s a quote from Quaker Faith and Practice -

[. . .] ten principles for the outward expression of simplicity:

  • First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  • Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  • Third, develop a habit of giving things away. De-accumulate.
  • Fourth, refuse to be propagandised by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  • Fifth, learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  • Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
  • Seventh, look with a healthy scepticism at all 'buy now, pay later' schemes.
  • Eighth, obey Jesus' injunction about plain, honest speech.
  • Ninth, reject anything that will breed the oppression of others.
  • Tenth, shun whatever would distract you from your main goal.

Some of these are very tough. Some of them I already do.

The ninth one means not only reading all those harrowing articles in the Guardian about the employment conditions of copper miners and the farmers of cashmere goats, but also acting upon them.

I considered the addiction one and realised I am not addicted to online Scrabble, but to light and to warmth. Turning down the heating to reduce our gargantuan and ever-rocketing oil bill is one thing, turning it down to save the planet is a step that as yet I am unwilling to take when I am not convinced it will make any difference. And the dim light from low–energy light bulbs depresses the bejeezuz out of me. The other addiction I have is to cashmere jumpers. They are both  light and warm. And soft!

June 2010 029

I thought I’d get started on point 2, though, on the principle that it is better to light one small candle than to do absolutely nothing. (Yes, yes, I know it’s “better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” Haven’t i quoted it here often enough?) And I will work hard on summoning up the motivation and determination to work on the other areas where I am lacking.

So I cleared out some things I don’t need – i.e. I de-accumulated. We have shelves and shelves of books – mostly gathered (many secondhand) since we lost everything in a fire. I think books furnish a house: I always feel uneasy when I go in someone’s house and see no books. But I went through my books and gave to the charity shop the ones I shall never read again. (There are a lot that I read over and over.)

This led on to dusting the shelves (Dave: “Dusting? I didn’t think you even knew where I keep the dusters!”) and also to sorting through papers that lurk untouched on the shelves in my study. For example,  I found a score sheet for Dave and for me from when we did the Myers-Briggs. This was years ago and I had forgotten what it meant that I was EFNJ so I had to check it up on the net.

This brought me back to the tenth principle above: shun whatever would distract you from your main goal. So I re-shelved the Myers Briggs scores for my biographer to decipher. (As if.) He or she will read this post and see in an instant that I had a long way to go before I could be counted as a faithful Quaker (or “a well-concerned Friend,” as we say at Quaker Meeting.)

But I do try.

June 2010 037

No comments: