Monthly Archives: July 2009

Zeke: The bird, the artist

My Artist Statement

by Zeke Quaker

I feel the true purpose of art is to explore the meta-dynamics of the connection between the avian psyche and the post-post-modern world. I strive to create a neo-Marxist dialectic in which my cage both symbolizes the oppression of the parrotariat and expresses the inherent possibilities and fluid interpretation of “seizing the means of production.” I find forks (empty of food and therefore of meaning) and adding machine tape (which, in its unprinted whiteness, illustrates the inevitable death of/by commerce) to be the most appropriate media for my message. The random plopping of bird shit reminds viewers of the ever-present threat of the bourgeoisie. Plus, it adds color.

We got your "festoon" right here

We got your "festoon" right here

Modern sculpture -- I makes it

Modern sculpture -- I makes it

I call this "cascading profits"

I call this "cascading prophets"

The real question is, how come all this building never attracts me a mate?

The real question is, how come all this building never attracts me a mate?

A Quaker *and* a Dork…

My Quaker meeting maintains silent worship, which means we sit quietly, listening for the Spirit. This is called an unprogrammed meeting and is what differentiates both conservative and liberal Friends meetingsĀ  from Friends Churches, which have pastors and weekly services.

During silent worship, if someone feels that the Spirit (God, Christ, Spirit, Light — we gotta lotta words for It) leads them, that person will speak, usually briefly. Some of the “old school” Quakers in my meeting say that as children, they were told they should only speak in meeting if they felt the force of the Spirit “kick them out of their seat.”

My meeting is a quiet one. It’s not unusual for a whole hour meeting to pass in complete silence, and 90% of any speaking is done by two of our elder/ly women. Meetings in which lots of people speak are sometimes called (derisively) by Quakers “popcorn meetings,” giving the impression that folks may be more focused on speaking up for themselves rather than waiting for the leading of the Spirit. We are the opposite of popcorn. We are humble little kernels, lightly buttered, perhaps, waiting for an elusive heat.*

It will probably surprise my friends and family to know that I have attended Quaker meetings sporadically here in Iowa and in Ohio for more than 6 years, and consistently attended the meeting I joined last summer for about 2 years, and I have never, ever spoken during meeting.**

Until last week.

I was sitting there in the old meeting house, which we only use in the summer because the heater is funky and we can all imagine the winter headline “Shocking Local Quaker Carbon Monoxide Suicide Pact” with an accompanying quote about how nice and quiet we all were, and a thought popped into my head. Now, this is not unusual because while I can keep from speaking during meeting, my head is all over the place. The thought was spiritual and enlightening (to me), and had to do with something I’d read earlier that week in a fantasy novel, and of all the things I might consider sharing at meeting, that would not be one of them because while I feel true affection and acceptance from my fellow Quakers, I’m already the tattoo flaunting, speculative-fiction reading, joke-cracking wackadoo from Nevada.

And then I felt a little kick, in the form of uneasiness.

No, I said to myself and to any Light that might be listening, I’m not going to share my little fantasy novel-related epiphany.

And I felt more uneasy.

No, I said, really. At meeting for business before meeting for worship, we even discussed how few people speak up at our meeting and if I say something right after that, it will look bad. Pushy. Popcorn-y.

And I felt even more uneasy. Uneasy enough to make me want to squirm.

And so, haltingly, I spoke up. I said that I get a lot of spiritual and philosophical ideas from good fantasy and sci-fi novels, because stories are about people even when they seem to be about aliens or rabbits or whatever, and I had recently re-read one*** in which, as in our world, the Spirit works among us through people, but can only do so when they have “cracked open” and become roomy. Then I said I wondered what my life would be life if I could be truly roomy for God.

And then I shut up and experienced what I’d always known happens after speaking up at meeting, but is way more disconcerting when it happens to you (or at least to me, a new Quaker). Think about it: when you are conversing with someone, or speaking up at a work meeting, your words always receive some sort of reaction, even if it’s a rolling of the eyes. Silence is even a telling reaction in a non-silent situation. When someone speaks in Meeting, however, folks don’t make eye contact or acknowledge the comment/message — it’s just Silence/words/Silence. You say your bit and that’s it, and you have no idea how anyone else received it.

See? Disconcerting.

But I also experienced something I wasn’t expecting: As uneasy as I had felt before speaking, afterward I felt peaceful, even joyous. And not nerdy or dorky, which is probably a more telling part of the little miracle that is silent worship.

After meeting was over, a woman thanked me and said making room for God had been on her mind a lot lately. And that’s the other (third? I’ve lost count) thing about speech during meeing for worship: it might not be about you, the speaker, at all. I have certainly heard others speak words or ideas that seemed to be exactly what I needed to hear right at that time. Again, Spirit works through us.

So there it is: I spoke up at meeting for the first time, confirming my status both as a Quaker and as a speculative fiction dork,****** and the earth didn’t open up and swallow me or anything and I didn’t even want it to.

And that’s all I have to say right now.

*At which point we will become (ex)salted. Oh come on, it’s a good pun!

**Yes, I can hear your disbelieving laughter

***Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls***** (which, along with Curse of Chalion, is not only well-written and a good read, but has middle-aged protagonists.)

*****I did not feel led to give the name of the book or the author. Luckily God seems to understand about the Dork Factor.

******Now that it’s done, I feel a bit dorky again. I almost didn’t include the paragraph about what I actually said. But if anyone in cyberspace laughs at me, at least I can’t hear ’em.


Facebook Revisted

Okay, I have to admit that I’m enjoying the connections and whatnot on Facebook. That said, it seems that the primary Facebook result for me thus far is that my sister Carol can trounce me in Scrabble in the comfort of my own home. So far, I’ve lost 3 concurrent games. I’m not loving that.

Will George Clooney “friend” me?

You know, I used to be fairly up to date on computer and communication technology. Sure, I didn’t get a cell phone until everyone and their dog had one, but I regularly replaced my computer so we (ex-hubby and I) could play the latest games and we regularly played Diablo when it was THE innovative online game to play and I had a PDA when they first came out and I had a micro-computer way back before laptops became popular and crowded the micros out and thus I crack up whenever I hear that micro-computers are coming back.

But the PDA drove me crazy with its tiny pen and tiny keyboard and I refused to buy a portable, fold-out keyboard for it because HELLO — micro-computer/laptop! And my cell phone is not top of the line and can’t even take photos because I also own a digital camera and I don’t have an X-box or a Wii and I no longer play multi-player games online because 1) they aren’t free and 2) you have to play with everyone* and I refuse to text-message on my phone because IT’S A PHONE AND YOU CAN DAMN WELL CALL ME and while I have, of course, a blog, I refuse to Twitter because I DO NOT need to know what someone else is doing/thinking/eating/reading/farting every damn minute and I cannot image anyone else wants to know the same stuff about me.

And despite the above grumpiness, I really am a lovely person *in person*. Unless I have a migraine. Or I’m in the middle of a really good book. Or you’ve just woken me up out of a sound sleep. But otherwise, lovely. Really.

But you’ll understand why I felt very grudging today when I finally caved and opened a Facebook account. I did it because many of my friends are on Facebook and they regularly invite me to “friend” them (which reeks to me of middle school and who the hell enjoyed that?) and they post pictures and invite me to view them, and I really wanted to see Jennifer’s new tattoo.

So I joined. I see on a knitting board that I frequent many folks asking questions about Facebook that also reek of middle school — so-and-so wants to friend me and I don’t want to friend them, or I posted while drunk and my boss who’s also on Facebook saw it, or how do I unfriend someone because I can’t stand them but I don’t want to actually let them know the extent of my can’t-stand-you-ness.

So my question is, is it possible to be on Facebook without the drama? Can I ignore friend requests from people I haven’t spoken to in 20 years without feeling like a bitch? Am I too far down the road that leads to shaking my fist at passing teenagers to even be on Facebook? Does Facebook have any redeeming qualities (other than Jennifer’s tattoo, which I *still* can’t manage to see) that I should know about? Convert me, folks, or justify my grumpiness. The comments are yours.

*As a Quaker, I really do believe that there is “that of God” in every person and we all have worth. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend my evenings with a few hundred thousand strangers.