Published in the Friends Bulletin
The question, "What of the Future" is one on
which I find I have almost no thoughts or vision. I
think that we do "hide from the long-but-near-term
view behind the bushes of our daily joys and
disappointments", but my own life seems to have become
one of doing whatever I do because it is the next thing
that has to be done, and I am not able to overlook
that thing in order to see something more distant. I
have little vision for myself, and hardly any for the
Berke1ey Meeting or the Society, let alone the world.
There was a time when I was very active politically
first at U.C., later in Berkeley city government; I have
been active in various ways in the peace movement
particularly in advocating tax refusal and offering
sanctuary to men in the military. I am less active these
days, probably partly due to the "brick wall"
syndrome (you can only bash your head against a brick
wall for so long until you either stop or break your
skull), also partly due to a sense that the overall
awareness on the planet or in our society is higher
than it was twenty or even ten years ago, but at the
same time those aware persons I knew or knew of
have gone off in directions I am not ready or able to
follow, e.g. withdrawing to the country, living off the
land, etc. Those who remain behind to try to cope
with city life seem to me to have become more provincial
not broader, in their concern over increasing
neighborhood involvement with each other at the
expense of a sense of the city as an organic whole.
Maybe it's not, but large aspects of our lives function
as if it were: transportation, communication, most
jobs, recreation, city services, etc.
There was also a time when I was or felt myself to
be spiritually neutral; 1 came to meeting not to "worship"
or "commune with God" but because I felt strengthened
in the silence per se and because I liked hearing the
messages that people had to offer. Those things are
still true, and I still am a "non-theist" meaning that
I think it makes no difference whether you believe in God
or not or use the terminology or not (even God doesn't
care if you believe in him or her or it or not; one's
conduct is what counts), but the concept of "worship"
and "centering" have become real to me; at least I'm
willing to use the terms, and I no longer feel spiritually
neutral. Like Roger Lorenz I have "discovered" the
teachings of Ken Keyes in the Handbook to Higher
Consciousness, which have filled a kind of void
in my psyche and made my life and that of others
much clearer. In particular I have come to feel that
whatever action I take with regard to whatever I
feel "ought" to be done, in relationships, in work
in social action, has meaning and permanence only if I
am centered or worshipful while endeavoring to bring
it about, and further that, since those whom I
may need to persuade may differ from me in what
they feel "ought" to be done, I must be prepared
to accept their continuing to differ with me and
to love and accept them just as much and the
situations just as much even if they do not change.
This I see as the central teaching of Ken Keyes as far
as social action is concerned; whether or not I bring
about any change in the outside world is less important
than whether I remain centered and loving in spite of
whatever is happening that I may not like, not only for me
since that is the best state of being but for others
since it also is best for them for me to be in that
state. This sounds very much I fear like a philosophy
of "seek thine own serenity first and let the evil of the
world continue"; what I think it really means is that I
can only in fact truly and permanently change the
world, as well as must salubriously, when I have
found my own serenity. "What doth it profit a man if
he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul"
applies not only to material possessions and temporal
power but to all forms of coercion including social
change, however gentle and non-violent they may be.
When I am at peace inwardly and can love even those
who oppose me, then I can work most successfully to
bring about any change I want in the outside world.
So my vision for the future, insofar as I have one
is that more people come to experience and live what
Ken Keyes calls the "Law of Higher Consciousness":
Love Everyone Unconditionally, including Yourself.
We have been taught to love everyone, but it has not
been made clear that the kind of love we need to have
is unconditional love - accepting another person
as a human being and child of God completely and
unconditionally in spite of their actions and even as
we work to change those actions; if we love them they
will listen to our preferences regarding their actions
and if we can keep our serenity even if those preferences
are not realized we and they will be better off.
This I believe is what Hosea taught (6:6) when he
reports God saying, I will have mercy and not sacrifice
since the word translated mercy can be translated
unconditional love; what Jesus taught when he said
Love your enemies, Give unto him that asketh of thee
and Let your love include all men, even as God includes
all in his love; and what George Fox taught when he said
Walk cheerfully over the earth, speaking to that of God
in every man.
(originally published under the name of John Fitz)