Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Online Covenant cont'd 

I put my personal experiences here, related to the Online Covenant, which is here, prepared and made pretty by a guy named Ryan, apparently, at the Earlham School of Religion, at the direction of Matt Hisrich, Dean, who liked this project and decided to give it some space. I must say, it's very impressive in its attractive layout.

The movies themselves are easily watched and interesting. I'm not so sure about the quality. The first one I did back in my bedroom; the wireless connection is somewhat indirect, and about halfway through (~5 30 MT) I started getting signals that the internet connection was weak. What happens, I believe, is that zoom has to bundle eight movies together to make the image you see; if one person even blinks, you should theoretically be able to see it. I started getting images that weren't current, that were frozen for fractions of a second, and I knew I was in trouble. I'd been in the bedroom most of the half hour, so as to avoid the usual puppy-barking, kid-squeaking kind of way things are. But now, back in the bedroom, I realized I'd have to go back.

I got up, walked back into the living room, plugged the computer in, and pressed "record" again; I'd lost about 1-3 minutes. I'm not sure why I had to turn it off in order to move; maybe that happened accidentally, but the first movie bundled itself naturally and I started in on the second.

As a Quaker I'm delighted to get in any room with six or seven other Quakers and discuss our experience with the Light, the spirit. It reminds me of one time I was living in southeast Kansas and decided to go down to the Arky-Okie Quarterly campout in the forest outside of Fayetteville Arkansas. Upon arrival I knew immediately I was with a group of Quakers and I took a deep breath. Being isolated is hard, because there are things one needs to discuss when one is trying to live a spiritual life. And it's good to be in the company of people who are united, basically, by trying to live a spiritual life.

So there are two movies: one is from about 5-5 30, and the other from about 5 33 - 6 03. I am not sure what the consequences of having two would be. I look forward to listening to them, perhaps several times, maybe even transcribing. Transcribing I figure would take either 6-10 hours, or perhaps $60, but both of those are impossible for me at this moment.

In the range from Millenial to Elder, I fall somewhere in between. I think I'm younger than some of the poeple Maurine has identified as elder; but I am the father of one of the millenials. It was an interesting crowd, and I am still reflecting on it. And, I look forward to the next one.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Quakers on Zoom - Maurine's Online Covenant 

Hello and welcome to my site, and thank you for participating in Maurine's online covenant, which I think will be fantastic. I am the technical coordinator, which means I am here to 1) make sure you can get on Zoom; 2) give you clear directions for getting on it in the coming days, and 3) managing the session itself, so that the recording will accurately reflect the people and what they say. First warning: Everything you say will be recorded, and may be studied by a number of people, from linguists to divinity scholars. Second warning: Although Zoom is very cool and way better than Skype for a number of reasons, it's not nothing, and so we appreciate you putting time into it before we start.

First, Zoom is much like Skype. It's an app and it tells you to put it in "applications" where it will be happy and access your computer video program. It takes you about five minutes to download it on your computer, and to do that you have your computer passwords ready and have rights to download apps onto the computer in the first place (this is an issue for me, working as I do in places where I don't always have those rights). So, take a few minutes, go to zoom.us, and download it. It's easy. Why is it better than Skype? The main reason is that for large video gatherings you can see everyone, and the recording is good. A secondary reason is that since Skype was taken over by Microsoft, for some reason it's less user-friendly, or it may be that people like me can simply never remember their Microsoft passwords or use them in a byzantine Microsoft system. For some people this is not an issue. But zoom doesn't even have a password, or rather, you store the number in your e-mail (which I will give you), then you use the password (which I will give you), and it'll be the same every time. It's quite easy. Recordings are also easy, and I believe you will have access to them if you want (if not write me @ leverett@siu.edu).

It reminds me - I ought to introduce myself to you, just so we can work together more easily, and I would like to say that you should feel free to introduce yourselves as well, and write me by email any time (). I have been a Quaker for about twenty-five years, and have raised ten children to be as Quakerly as I could. I met Maurine in the Southern Illinois Friends Meeting, and we have been close friends since. I have written many Quaker plays, most of which are on this very site. And finally, I'm not really the technical whiz Maurine might infer, but I'm the best she's got, and I've agreed to help her with this.

One other thing I should mention is that you will need a computer with a videocam; almost all computers have one, but some of the older ones don't, and, unlike Skype, you can't jack in to Zoom as a phone call, sound only, from a land line. You have to have internet and be able to download Zoom onto your computer. Another thing you'll need is to make sure your computer is fully charged during the meeting, or near a charger where you can simply plug it in. We forget how much bandwidth it takes to basically send a live-stream video of six to eight people, at the same time sending part from yours to zoom central, and then sending basically eight more (or however many) live-stream movies back to you. You may think that if you don't move around much, or say anything, it will be easier on Zoom; no, it's an entire movie, of eight people, every time, being live-streamed in real-time, and taking in everything including lack of movement. It takes a lot of bandwidth, and you can't do it if your computer is dying, or your internet is too slow to handle it. Most internet, even in the remotest parts of New Mexico or New Hampshire, is fine. If you have internet, and a computer, you'll be fine. If not, go to a cafe or a library (though those places may be unwilling or unable to download zoom - in any case, if you can use their wifi, you're in). These are the olden days of wifi connection and sometime soon we'll be dumbfounded that this was an issue for anyone (as we do now, if you can't type something on Word) - but, sorry if this is an issue for you. Do the legwork now and figure out where you will be on Sunday Nov. 18, 5:00 MT, 6:00 Central time, 7:00 Eastern time, 4:00 Pacific. Anyone in Alaska or Europe? I think we're covered.

OK let's say you've downloaded zoom, and have now been invited to a meeting, which would mean that within your e-mail you have a number that looks like a phone number, and another one that looks like a password. Make sure your times are right: Mountain time (me) is an hour before Central; Central is an hour before Eastern; California and the west coast are an hour behind us in the mountains. Don't forget! Do the time conversions before the whole thing starts, so that you will be sure to be there at the same time we are.

Zoom lets you in right away and lets you control whether we hear your voice or don't, and whether we see you or don't. Please choose yes on both counts. No matter how embarrassing it is for you, we on our end feel better if we have some concept of what you look like, even if it's fuzzy or there are pajamas in the picture. You can turn it on "No video" if you are running to the bathroom, or "no sound" if some jackhammer starts outside, but in general, be conscious of the video, the sound, and the volume. We will want to hear you when you speak. Needless to say, it will help us to see you too.

Thank you one more time for your help in this extraordinary project. I think that the biggest issue facing Quakers today is that so many of us are isolated, which is due partly to our low numbers, so we don't get active involvement with other Quakers regularly. This project addresses that problem, and, if it works, obviously there can and will be more like it. It may cost you an hour on some precious first-days, but will be every bit as useful as we can make it. -Tom Leverett, PO Box 707 Cloudcroft NM 88317, ph. 618 319 2426

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Online Covenant - Quakers hit Zoom 

My old friend Maurine has the idea of getting Quakers far and wide together, online, and has entrusted me as the tech guy who will somehow make these meetings possible, record them, bundle and send them, and make them available on the Earlham School of Religion's site.

This is a tall order, since I'm not really very technologically savvy. She considers me to be young, and more capable of this kind of stuff, but that's kind of an illusion; actually I'm the kind of guy who would leave my VCR on "12:00" for months at a time. But, for this project, I've chosen Zoom, and I've decided that the key is getting everyone to 1) have Zoom, 2) be comfortable with it, and 3) open up to the situation.

Zoom is like Skype, only it's much easier to use. When I get involved in Skype, I have to figure out my Microsoft password, or establish one, and then guess how to set up a conference call, or anything that would involve more than two people. Zoom is made so that anyone can use it, and use it with others. It's also set up to be a classroom; you can call up things online, use a whiteboard, etc. I'm a big Zoom fan. But it's mostly because I'm familiar with it.

First online session is Sunday. Time to get going here, and figure this out. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tide of Employment 

A play about Herbert Hoover

Tide of Employment 

The Tide of Employment


SCENE ONE: White House

                                    Setting is at the White House. There are fancy chairs and couches around. At first the Reporter stands at front, alone, but then goes to join Hoover, front center.

REPORTER:    The great crash of Wall Street was barely eight months ago, and President Hoover so far has done nothing about the unemployment situation. Groups of people are collecting in places they’ve come to call “Hoovervilles,” such as Anacostia, here in Washington DC. Meanwhile I’ve come to the White House to talk to Mr. Hoover about what exactly he plans.

                                    Reporter sits with Hoover and puts microphone in front of him as appropriate.

REPORTER:    Mr. Hoover, what can you tell us about the employment situation, and what you’re doing about it?
HERBERT:      The tide of employment has changed in the right direction! People will be employed soon, I’m sure! It’s all a matter of confidence. When the employers become more confident about our future, they will hire more people.
REPORTER:    How can you assure us of that?
HERBERT:      I base my analysis on the US Employment Service. Look, I am just the President. I do not employ people, the businesses employ them. The businesses have to have confidence, before they take someone on, but I assure you, they have every reason to be confident. The US Employment Service assures us, the tide of employment is going in the right direction!

SCENE TWO: Perkins’ residence

                                    Similar to Scene One; it’s a private, well-to-do residence. There is a kitchen table. Francis sits at the kitchen table, writing in her diary.

FRANCES: (reading aloud to audience)         
            Dear Diary, These are the worst of times. Our president does not see the pain that people are in. There are no jobs, and nobody is doing anything about it. I fear the jobless will feel there’s something wrong with them personally. A great despair will enter their hearts. Young people will read the stories of our times and say, “Why doesn’t Papa work?”  He says it’s a matter of confidence. If people are not confident, whose fault is that? If nobody wants to be the first to start hiring people, whose fault is that?
(PAUL enters)
PAUL:              What are you doing, darling?
FRANCES:       Writing in my diary.
PAUL:              You look quite agitated.
FRANCES:       I am. Hoover has just made a speech. He said he felt that the (mocking his voice, making it obvious she doesn’t agree) “tide of employment has changed in the right direction!”
PAUL:              It doesn’t look like it has, based on the lines at the employment center!
FRANCES:       That’s exactly my point! He based his information on the US Employment Service. But the US Employment Service is notoriously inaccurate! The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is more current, and more accurate, says that people are being laid off. People are losing their jobs. His Secretary of Labor says we’re “well on the way to recovery.” But I can see that we’re not!
PAUL:              You know, we could be in for a long depression.
FRANCES:       Yes, and you know what? This isn’t a problem that solves itself.
PAUL:              And you know, the problem with that buzzard is, it could be that government involvement is the only way to get the country back on track. You know, printing money, employing people, setting up some kind of safety net. You can’t just sit around and watch people starve!
FRANCES:       Yes, but that’s what he’ll do! You watch! 
                               (they exit.)

SCENE THREE: White House

                                (LOU HENRY and HERBERT enter. LOU HENRY is bringing HERBERT a cup of tea).

LOU HENRY: So, you said the tide of employment has changed in the right direction?
HERBERT:      Yes, dear, I said that. I said it because it has!
LOU HENRY: And what did you base that idea on?
HERBERT:      On statistics from the US Employment Service. Do you have a problem with that?
LOU HENRY: I just don’t quite believe them, is all. I think maybe you’re seeing what you want to see, instead of seeing what’s out there.
HERBERT:      It’s all confidence, dear. These businesses will hire people, if they think things are turning up. We have to keep our heads up, look at the good side! We have to keep looking forward!
LOU HENRY:  But that doesn’t mean looking at the wrong statistics!
HERBERT:      Statistics are statistics; numbers don’t lie! I’ve been using the same statistics all my life, and they never really failed me. I realize, maybe I’m looking at the good statistics, not the bad ones. But if these guys say the tide is turning, I’ll take it! I’ll not question it, and then go out there and tell everyone to starve!
LOU HENRY: I see your point. But in the end, they may starve anyway.
HERBERT:      So what am I supposed to do about it?
LOU HENRY: I don’t know, Herbert. But you are the President. You can think of something, can’t you? People are starving!  They’re making tent camps, like that one in Anacostia. They are cursing you under their breath!
HERBERT:      Listen, Lou Henry. As you know, I was an orphan. I was hungry once.  It’s not that I don’t know what it’s like to be hungry; I do. I just don’t feel like it’s the President’s job to make sure everyone gets fed. These businesses will start hiring, I know they will. They just need the confidence to get going. They need to feel like everyone else is doing it, and like it will turn out ok.
LOU HENRY: By the way, you know that place down near here, called Anacostia? The one people are beginning to call “Hooverville?” Anyway it’s where the poor people are. I was thinking, I could at least take some of our extra food down there. We have so much, we have extra.
HERBERT:      No, I won’t have it. We are the first family; we must show confidence that it will all get better. We can’t go mixing in with people down there.

SCENE FOUR: Campfire
SETTING is HOOVERVILLE, ANACOSTIA. Tired, dirty, poorly dressed people are around a fire. There can be as many as you like, or just two. The first is ANNIE, and the second is FRED, but there can be many singers. The tune is from We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqvYNoiPDKw. But it can be chanted, or sung without the tune.

Today we're living in a shanty
Today we're scrounging for a meal

Today I'm stealing coal for fires
Who knew I could steal?

I used to winter in the tropics

I spent my summers at the shore

I used to throw away the paper—

we don’t anymore!

We'd like to thank you: Herber Hoover
For really showing us the way
We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover
You made us what we are today

Prosperity was 'round the corner
The cozy cottage built for two
In this blue heaven
That you
Gave us
Yes! We're turning blue!

They offered us Al Smith and Hoover
We paid attention and we chose
Not only did we pay attention
We paid through the nose.

In ev'ry pot he said "a chicken"
But Herbert Hoover he forgot
Not only don't we have the chicken
We ain't got the pot!
Hey Herbie

You left behind a grateful nation

So, Herb, our hats are off to you
We're up to here with admiration

Come down and have a little stew

Come down and share some Christmas dinner
Be sure to bring the missus too
We got no turkey for our stuffing
Why don’t we stuff you

We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover (Thank you Herbie)
For really showing us the way
You dirty rat, you Bureaucrat, you
Made us what we are today
Come and get it, Herb!

(they exit)

SCENE FIVE: Perkins’ house

(enter FRANCES and PAUL. FRANCES is serving tea.)

FRANCES:       Well, Hoover is turning out to be one of the most unpopular  presidents, ever!
PAUL:              Yes, the main problem is that so many people are starving, eh?
FRANCES:       The unemployment rate has reached 25%. It’s like nobody is working  except the mailman and the public school teachers.
PAUL:              But he’s raised taxes on everyone. What does he think, that the common people can take much more of this?
FRANCES:       Well, as you know, he believes in balancing the budget. And he passed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, so that dried up international trade!
PAUL:              Yes, you make tariffs, they make tariffs, pretty soon there’s less trade,  no jobs, more of the same. He thought he was protecting jobs, but it didn’t work out that way. And the worst thing is that he’s supporting Prohibition! He called it an “experiment,” like he would take it away if  it didn’t work. Well, it didn’t work. But we’re still stuck with it.
FRANCES:       Yes, does he think people shouldn’t be able to drink away their woes?
PAUL:              Well, it’s really more a practical matter. I can see the damage that alcohol does, but is it really possible to make it illegal, and keep it that way? People like this Al Capone, they’re just smuggling it in, making the big money, and that makes the people even more angry I would think.             
FRANCES:       Not to mention, need a drink once in a while.
PAUL:              That reminds me (producing a wine bottle): Would you like a sip? It’s tough times. We need to get through it. (He pours) Listen, Frances. Cheers! (they raise glasses together and clink them). You are the new Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor. My point is, you are prominent. You are in the public eye. When you say that Hoover is using bogus statistics to make his point, people listen. It’s important what’s going on here. People are starving. Hoover is ignoring it, and pretending everything is going to be ok. What if it’s not ok? Somebody has to do something!
FRANCES:       I’m doing the best I can, Paul! It is not easy, watching these people starve!
                                    (they leave)

SCENE SIX: White House

                                    (HERBERT and LOU HENRY come and occupy the same table).

LOU HENRY: Your heart looks heavy, Herbert. It looks like it’s weighing on you.
HERBERT:      It is. I am well aware that people are starving, and that they blame me.
LOU HENRY: Let me remind you of something, Herbert. You have led an exemplary life. You helped rebuild Europe after World War One. You fed millions of Europeans with the American Relief Administration. That was no small thing. You have showed the world how one person can make a difference.
HERBERT:      But here, I just don’t see what I can do. I started the Hoover Dam; I made projects that employed people. I know how to get things done, make plans, get the money, get projects rolling. But I can’t just make business start hiring! I can’t just go out and feed people, and put them on the dole! That’s not how it works! These businesses have to take the initiative here! It’s just not government’s job!
LOU HENRY: Perhaps you shouldn’t have raised taxes?
HERBERT:      You have to balance the budget! If the government just starts borrowing, borrowing, borrowing, where does that lead us? I can’t see it. We had to have the money to keep government going. I don’t know any way out!
LOU HENRY:              You know, Herbert, I can’t help but think of our Quaker heritage. We both grew up Quaker, grew up in the same faith. Where are the principles of compassion, and helping the poor? We sit here, with this nice tablecloth, and our fine silver, (she waves her arms at the finery on the table; at this point there are at least a few dishes, and teacups), and out there people are starving. I’d like to help them, maybe take some food down to Anacostia, but you think that’s not becoming of the Presidency. Sometimes it seems to me that the only thing left of our Quakerism is our stubborn refusal to let people drink!
HERBERT:      Actually I wouldn’t mind a little drink, at this point.
LOU HENRY: What, make it illegal for everyone, but indulge ourselves? I’ll not have it! I may have given up on all our other Quaker ideals, but I’ll not give up on doing yourself as you let others do.
HERBERT:      By the way, I’ve received reports that you’ve arranged to take leftover foods from the White House, over to Anacostia at times on weekends.  Is this true?   
LOU HENRY: Yes it is, I arrange for it anyway. You see, I can’t bear to know that people are starving. It is one thing, that they say the President has no thought for the little man, but only trying to save the bloated plutocrat. They can say all the mean and hurtful things they want. But as for myself, if I waste food, while people are starving, I can’t bear that. I will go and help them if I can. It’s my kitchen; it’s my food, and I can have our people take it over there.
HERBERT:      Just be careful, OK? I don’t really want you going over there yourself. Just have the kitchen help do it; they’ll know how to get it over there, and what to do. It’s not safe if you go. I can’t bear to see you in danger.

                                    (they leave)

SCENE SEVEN: Reporter is at tv set

REPORTER:   Good evening. Today the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, criticized President Hoover, for using the wrong statistics when he said that the “tide of employment” had turned and that employers were beginning to hire more workers. She said that the US Employment Service had inaccurate statistics, and should not be trusted, and, in addition, correct statistics would show that things were not in fact getting better. (she exits)


                                    (Scene returns to Hooverville, a campfire. Everyone is rubbing their hands to stay warm. They are dressed in rags and old clothing. Annie and Fred are among many, as many as can be mustered. Children are welcome at this point too.)

ANNIE:            I hate Herbert Hoover so much! He sits up there in his elegance, his                            finery, and we, down here in Anacostia, we starve!
FRED:              Yeah, back in Europe, he said, “Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!” But look at him now. He’s up there in that White House, with his silver and his china, and do you think he’d feed us? I don’t think so!
ANNIE:            And you can’t even have a drink, or they’ll arrest you!
FRED:              Oh you can bet those rich people have plenty to drink! They’re hiding behind their walls and gates, just drinking away, they are! It’s us who have to go to the poor house, or go to jail for picking up a sip here and there.
ANNIE:            The hypocrisy of it, that’s what I hate! They have their jobs, their salaries, their houses. They can hide. We’re out here, in the cold. In the park. We make one move, the coppers will see us!
FRED:              You think they’re happy up there? You think they’re drunk? ‘Cause I’ll tell you, I don’t know what they’re doing.
ANNIE:            You know, I think about his wife sometimes. What would it be like to                           be married to a skinflint teetotaler like Hoover? A miserable, stubborn, greedy old fool! I think she must be miserable too!
FRED:              Oh miserable, I don’t think so. He had millions before he was even president. He never hurt for money. Sure, he was an orphan once, but he made so many millions, he forgot all about what it was like to be hungry. He made the Hoover Dam, he did this, he did that. I don’t think they’re suffering. I think they’re made in the shade!
                                    (LOU enters from left, stands in front, does not see campers, speaks directly to audience. She is carrying a box. )
LOU HENRY: When I was a kid, we lived out in the country. We made a fire in the stove to keep us warm. But you know, that’s the time I would feel hungry. I could work all day, and not feel it, if we were a little short of food, or if somebody ate all the biscuits. But at night, when it got cold, that’s when I’d feel it. So now, I have this box of food. Some of it needs to be eaten; it might go bad. But I don’t want to throw it out. And the kitchen help, they’re done for the night. They went home. It’s just me, and I’m going to take it down there.

                                    (She takes a wide turn off to the side of the stage, then comes back, in front of the people in the campfire. She shows the audience the box again, before turning back and presenting it to them.)
LOU HENRY: Excuse me? (setting a box in front of them) These are various kinds of food that we won’t be eating. We thought we’d bring you something, you know, just to help tide you over.
FRED:              (standing, removing his hat) Why thank you ma’am. Much obliged. God bless you!



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Quaker pop art 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

New Children of the LIght 

by Maurine Pyle
Available on Amazon, $10 + shipping
Available at the CreateSpace Store, $10 + shipping
On Kindle Soon

From the book description:
"Why should we care about the Millennial generation? Managers, the military, and religious leaders are all asking themselves how they can adapt to this generation who represent the largest work force. So far no one has been asking the Millennials how they see things. New Children of the Light can serve as a window into the lives and minds of young people coming of age in the twenty first century. I have simply asked sixteen young Quakers to tell us who they are and who they want to become."

Maurine Pyle is a good friend of mine, so I helped her produce this book. It includes two of my boys, and I recommend it.

Monday, May 29, 2017


I've noticed, over time, that I get some notoriety out of being a Quaker playwright. As a Quaker, I should not like this, but as a Quaker playwright, I do. And there is no shortage of ideas, which, as it happens, I'm going to list in this post.

This morning I celebrated Memorial Day by staying home and mulling over Quakers' problem with Memorial Day; I did this by reading a post in the "Quaker" Facebook page, in which some people, perhaps outsiders, got incensed at Quakers who basically were not comfortable getting drawn into the Memorial Day glorification of war. Now, taking a few minutes to honor the dead is different from glorification of war, and many were quick to point this out, but the appearance of being unwilling to do either rankles those whose relatives have laid down their lives. It's a hard point for Quakers and one they need to work on as they present themselves to the world. So, perhaps one of these next plays will hit that issue.

The idea of this next volume is that there would be fewer props, less action, but more intense dialogue. Perhaps I will call it "Quaker plays for adults" on the theory that sometimes you read stuff just for the mental stimulation, and sometimes four people in a very small meeting can simply read a play aloud and use it as a springboard for discussion. All of my plays have been intended as being able to start discussion.

This is what I've come up with so far.

1. World Congress of Friends - though I might have some names wrong, as I've lost my original information, the International Congress of Friends met in Africa a few years back, and there was a kerfuffle about gay marriage. This play is about Americans in Africa, and a difference in worldviews. I started working on it, have that work somewhere, and now can't find it.

2. Herbert Hoover - Interesting to me, partly because of my time in West Branch. I am actually about to write this one, because the idea is fresh in my head. Hoover was the only person who ever tried to be a Quaker while he was president. He is interesting to me now, partly because insensitivity is one of the faults of the current president, and mass starvation could be the result. It's worth exploring a person who takes as truth, things that may not be true. That's what the play is about. Based on this article. Could include this song as well.

3. Tsarist Russia - Originally I linked this site, which has all kinds of ideas on it. Sometimes one has to read, and see what one finds.

4. Elizabeth Vining and Crown Prince Akihito. People always love a Crown Prince. People especially love a Crown Prince with a human side, and a Quaker connection.

and here are a few more:
5. Rufus Jones, famous Quaker during WWII
6. Cadbury and the Quaker chocolate dynasty
7. Scattergood and the housing of refugees in WWII
8. the Quaker who became bad, spent money, went around the world, etc. (forgot his name)
9. Quakers in Civil War

Sunday, December 25, 2016

I'm up on these folks, so I thought I'd share this awesome poster which I took right off their website (http://www.quakers4re.org). The reason I'm up on them is because they knew about my plays, Quaker Plays for First Days, and when a Bolivian Quaker was up looking for resources, they showed it to her; she asked if she could translate them. I was honored. Of course you can translate my plays! If people use them worldwide, I'm famous in the Quaker world.

Of course, the Quaker world is small, so it doesn't take much to be well-known. I might be the only, or one of the only, Quaker playwrights. But that, too, is an honor. I might do some more of it.

I look forward to the Spanish version of Quaker Plays for First Days. I also look forward to a generally better-organized First-Day resource collection. I'm glad that the internet makes this possible, and that people have moved in to fill the gap.

In general I use this site to talk about developments with Quaker plays and with my own experiences with Quakerism. I've been moving lately. I moved to Lubbock, TX, four years ago, and have just moved to Cloudcroft, NM. The best I can figure, my new meeting is Las Cruces, 90 miles away. But I can live with that. They have a beautiful old adobe house on the old road, which in Las Cruces is Mesquite Street (or Avenue?). I'm learning my way around. Intermountain Yearly Meeting, maybe that's one of my new goals. Out in the boondocks, one has to reach out in order to stay connected to the Quaker world. My next project may be Quaker calendars. More on that later.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

historic event 

The Friends of Southern Illinois Quaker Meeting have now decided to leave the Interfaith Center, and meet at the schoolhouse owned by the Sufis, across town, and I've decided that this is a good thing, or at least a necessary thing, and I'll tell you why. It was not an easy decision; in fact, they were working on it almost ten years ago, and they almost moved back while I lived there, which would have been before 2012. But at that time they were considering meeting at the Wesley Center, in the Methodists' building, and several people, including me, were opposed. I just couldn't see having a silent Quaker meeting right under a large cross. I had enough history with the Methodists, though I had to admit I liked them better than, say, the Baptists. But a core of us, even then, were committed to saving the Interfaith building if at all possible.

The problem is, this is really more a story about that group of Quakers stubbornly sticking to an impossible dream, than about the joyful coming together of Quakers and Sufis, who share a lot in common in terms of their roles in the religions they started in. I don't know much about the Sufis, as I'll explain later, but one thing is for sure - Quakers won't have a silent meeting under a huge cross, as they would at the Wesley Center. The main problem was, the Interfaith itself is crumbling to the ground. People who are more in tune to the physical environment would notice this first: hole in the roof, water leaking through it during meeting, broken water heater, lack of any kind of cooling, persistent flooding, mold, that kind of thing. One mother and child came through the town (Carbondale, IL) and she said she literally couldn't have her young son in the building. Why, I thought, I practically brought my kids up in it. But I think she was right. It was unsafe and it was unhealthy, and there was no way really to fix it up.

Why not? It was right in the center of town, across from the university; it had a lifetime lease of $1/year; all they had to do was raise the money to fix the building itself. Occasionally they would have fundraising campaigns and they would work; they'd get a new water heater, or perhaps a furnace, or something, anything, to keep it going for a while. The mainline churches that had established it had long ago backed out; this was partly because it wasn't effective in bringing students into their congregations, and partly because of internal pressure to not support a building where activities ranged from pagan gatherings to revolutionary provocations. The churches just found that the cost/benefit ratio was too imbalanced; whoever was director of the Interfaith was too unresponsive to their needs. It had some supporters around town, who would invest heavily, occasionally, and even that wasn't enough. You have to pay a director. And then, that director needs insurance.

I was in Carbondale from 1994 to 2012, eighteen years. In that time, the Quakers became the only remaining tenant in the building. We'd have it to ourselves on Sunday mornings, and it was occasionally a nice, warm, welcoming place. The trains came by regularly. It was on a very low patch by a creek and would suffer from floods. Being on the path from the dorms to the bars, it suffered from occasional vandalism. But it was a nice place, and for all intents and purposes, it was ours. At one point "Occupy Carbondale" kind of moved in and some homeless people were more or less camping there. In summer it was interminably hot and we almost lost our meeting, due to just plain inhospitable clime. In winter they'd fire up the furnace an hour before we got there and sometimes even then, the seats, the floors, the walls would all be very cold. We could all see the end coming. That's why I wrote the play (below) about the inanimate objects in the place. Its inclusiveness, its all-religions-welcome aspect was very dear to us. I had dreams of having an international, all-religions-welcome festival there. But these were just dreams. I had a family to support, and had to keep working no matter what. Even when I left, it was, for me, partly so I could breathe, and experience any of my dreams. So I became somewhat detached; I still love the building, as we all do, but I realized there wasn't much we could do. We were a small group of about ten people. At one point I said, we could just snatch this as a Quaker meeting house, keep it, fix it up, invest our own money into it, etc. But it had this board, and this formal structure of ownership. The board didn't seem to do much for the place, though. They were kind of absentee owners - they occasionally begged for someone to join them. I was too busy.

The Sufis came to town sometime in that period, perhaps in the late 90's. They had a strong leader, who had lived in Europe and New York for a while, and who apparently had a place in Colorado as well. People spread rumors about him and them; one was that he had two wives; another was that they were a kind of cult. I have decided that they are not a cult, but I really have no idea about his marital status. I always found them to be nice people, and occasionally some of the local people, my friends, would get involved with them. I say they were not a cult, mostly because they didn't apply pressure, to me or my friends, and also didn't apply pressure, when those people chose to leave them. Those were my criteria. I knew that they studied Arabic, and they tried to practice their religion devoutly. Other Muslims scorned them, much as other Christians scorn the Quakers. They represented a kind of mystic branch, experiential (also like the Quakers), but failing to live up to the standards of the Muslim orthodoxy in town (I knew this from my Saudi students, as I actually had more standard Muslim friends than, say, mainline Protestant ones, or anything else). But I wasn't totally clear about this, and still am not. They were friendly to me; I knew several of them. Together, or one at a time, they bought up little houses on the north side, and the north side became a kind of Sufi neighborhood.

Having left in 2012, I don't know if they've grown or declined; if they have people joining them from around the country or the world, or they stick to their little group in town; if their farm has been successful or not; if their school (where the Meeting will now meet) is doing well in terms of educating young Sufi children; or if their relations with the community are good or strained. I always felt they were good; they tried to be good neighbors. They had a piece of land on the north side that was called "Sufi Park," - it was small, but it was nice. I think it's about the same as it was four years ago, when I left. Their school is probably a good place for us to meet. And they probably need our meager rent money. The location is good - anywhere in town is better than anywhere out of town. As long as parking is not an issue, everyone will get along fine.

The play below is about knowing that the building you are in is doomed, and will be torn down, and has been abandoned, for all intents and purposes, by everyone. That is the case for the Interfaith. They are having their last meeting there today, and reading my play, which is now eight years old. The rubber tree is long gone, but many of the things in the play still are: the piano, the Shinto gate, the statuettes. It's a challenge for the community, to walk away with this stuff and find a good use for it. Hopefully the community can pull together and find good uses for those things. The pain of the inanimate objects of course is nothing compared to that of my fellow Friends in Carbondale, who are letting go of their attachments, as I write.

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