Andrew Brion, Victoria Regional Meeting
In the new Victorian Friends’ Centre (VFC) a group has started to meet each fortnight. The group is convened by David Parris and we meet for ninety minutes, being three half hours of: silent worship; contemplation and writing; and sharing and fellowship. The objective is to deepen our experiences of the Light and to be open to the leading of the Spirit.
While anything can arise for each individual, e.g. world issues, experiences of the silence, problems with disturbances during meeting – and these can sometimes be quite varied – our latest meeting produced four reflections with remarkable commonality, one from each of the attenders, all on peace and harmony – and some perhaps also pointing to a way in which we might use VFC. While the written pieces are usually for personal and, optionally, group reflection, we felt these said something about the gathered nature of that particular meeting and it felt right to share them more broadly.
Silence and Light
Silence and light
The tick of the clock
My Friends’ breathing
Trucks in the street
As my mind centres on my core,
It expands outwards
Streets and houses
Rolling hills meeting rolling waves.
So much pain
So much hope
Like fertile seeds in fertile soil
Waiting for the rain.
Is this the new Spring?
Is this the end of a long Winter?
Is now the start of a new growth?
Is now the time for the fresh green shoots of harmony?
On a kitchen cupboard door is a poster. It is of you, my friend. A younger you, younger than the last time we met, when you encouraged me to come back to Aotearoa -New Zealand for the annual peace hui. The poster speaks of the internationally renowned peace researcher, and your impending national tour. The images on the black and white poster are simple and evocative. Your face, younger and, I think, looking somewhat sad. A bike, a small backpack, and was it a camera?
The images remind the informed observer of your latest adventure/misadventure. You had taken leave from SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. You were cycling around a small offshore island. You were travelling light, spartan as always.
While in Stockholm, in winter, people would observe your sandals, black bush singlet and grey shorts with a degree of disbelief. But you, the beekeeper from New Zealand’s west coast were used to the rugged winters, and to walking in all weathers. But I digress – your cycling holiday took you past military installations and you observed with your ever present analytical mind the nature and purpose of the electronic array laid out before you.
Your holiday over, you returned to your workplace and began to catch up on your reading of military journals, the literature of your daily work. A comment by, if I recall correctly, a Danish Colonel, stated that all of their military infrastructure was defensive … your observations clearly demonstrated this remark to be untrue. And so you took to your typewriter and sent a countering missive to the journal.
And the Swedish Security service pounced, raiding you, confiscating papers and other literature like books of addresses and contacts. You went to trial and described the conclusion in the judgement. You were convicted of the Orwellian crime of having ‘unauthorised remembrances’. Meaning that you had remembered things you had observed that you should have forgotten because they were secret.
Being expelled, following your trial, you returned to New Zealand. We celebrated your return. The international campaign supporting you, standing in solidarity with you gave you heart and heightened our appreciation of your contribution.
Now, in 2017, looking at your face on the old photograph I am saddened by your subsequent, years later, suicide as you contemplated further surgery for a painful condition.
Thank you for your lived expression of peace activism and love lived in global terms.
Someone once said ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’, and
I don’t really know if it was Jesus Christ or St Matthew
Or just some second century scribe – but what matters is it stuck.
It stuck. And people wrap themselves inside that peaceful banner
Calling for peace, peace, peace when what they really wish is
To see a world shaped like the one they want.
There are those who say that peace is just sustained by those
With mighty weapons – that those with soft and blissful
Tongues are weak, can never make the peace they yearn for.
But know that those who hold the peace, hold their peace –
Their peace, not the peace of others. One man’s freedom is
Another man’s prison. And what brings one a sense of peace is for another
Something altogether else. Those blessed peacemakers perhaps would like
To put away all weapons, perhaps remove all violence. But still they have their politics,
Their views. They will not fail to speak their mind to challenge those
In power. And words will hurt despite the stick and stones adage.
I don’t know if it’s OK to call a person evil and whether that
Advances peace; if there are other ways to bring two minds to meet.
Oh, blessed peacemakers who sometimes get caught up with physical peace
While the trauma wrought by words and deeds goes on – erodes the very
Fabric of relationships and life. I am reminded of Mary Oliver
And her words about our one wild and precious life. Then
She does not call us to the ramparts but to know that we are
One with all life, the world. To take our time. To pray.
To walk one day in silence with the universe.
The peace incubator
How difficult to still. Thinking of what surrounds does not quiet me. The voices around now silent demand answers. What is the way forward?
With the gift of our new home comes responsibility. How will we Friends breathe peace? How will we transcend life, take from you, digest your will and act?
The surroundings beckon. Will we stop bickering about possessions? Can we set aside worldly longings dressed up as Quakerly thought?
Can we wait in the light and listen?
Now light flashes against my eyes. Am I closer to the spirit? I stop and words drop into my mind – become a “Peace incubator”
Immediately my mind races. I must pee so I open my eyes dazzled by the reflection from a car across the road, go to the loo, come back and settle again into silence. The words are still with me and the beginnings of feeling settled. I sigh and sit back but the alarm brings me out.
I will share my reality.