where words are clarified

Two believers in conflict about their doctrines are concerned with the execution of divine will, not with a fleeting personal agreement. For the man who is so related to his faith that he is able to die or slay for it there can be no realm where the law of the faith ceases to hold. It is laid on him to help truth to victory, he does not let himself be misled by sentiments. The man holding a different, that is false, belief must be converted, or at least instructed … The thesis of religious disputation cannot be allowed to “go.”

[In contrast, I have only this confession] We expect a theophany of which we know nothing but the place, and the place is called community. In the public catacombs of this expectation there is no single God’s word which can be clearly known and advocated, but the words delivered are clarified for us in our human situation of being turned toward one another. There is no obedience to the coming one without loyalty to his creature. To have experienced this is our way.

  • Martin Buber, Between Man and Man

[inspired by Englewood Review of Books and their celebration of the birthday of Martin Buber]

encouraging and supporting the inner teacher

[The faculty of SSU have been reading (or re-reading) Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach together this year. Here is a quote mentioned in our final discussion that seems fitting for what we are trying to embody in our education at SSU.]

…Quakers had to invent social structures that would allow their members to do such work with and for each other.

The ground rules for every social structure they invented had to honor a powerful and paradoxical pair of Quaker beliefs: each of us has an inner teacher that is an arbiter of truth, and each of us needs the give-and-take of community in order to hear that inner teacher speak. So Quaker social structures offer community to help a person discover the guidance that comes from within and ground rules to prevent that community from invading the individual’s inwardness with external agendas and advice.

– Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

sex and safety

[thinking of Ghomeshi made me think of the relevance of this quote from Wendell Berry – for those not familiar with Berry, be assured that the context here is the loss of community and the exploitation of consumerism much more than it is a loss of ‘public morals’]

Seeking to ‘free’ sexual love from its old communal restraints, we have ‘freed’ it also from its meaning, its responsibility, and its exaltation. And we have made it more dangerous. ‘Sexual liberation’ is as much a fraud and as great a failure as the ‘peaceful atom.’ We are now living in a sexual atmosphere so polluted and embittered that women must look on virtually any man as a potential assailant, and a man must look on virtually any woman as a potential accuser. The idea that this situation can be corrected by the courts and the police only compounds the disorder and the danger. And in the midst of this acid rainfall of predation and recrimination, we presume to teach our young people that sex can be made ‘safe’ – by the use, inevitably, of purchased drugs and devices. What a lie! Sex was never safe, and it is less safe now than it has ever been.

– Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community

true authority

[A reminder from a familiar source of a great measuring stick for authority – whether for government leaders or in a small community.]

True authority is exercised in the context of justice for all, with special attention to the weakest people, who cannot defend themselves and are part of the oppressed minority. This is an authority ready to give its life, which does not accept any compromise with evil, deceit, and the forces of oppression. A family or communal authority, as well as having this sense of justice and truth, needs personal relationships, sensitivity in its action and the ability to listen, trust, and forgive. None of this, of course, ecludes moments of firmness.

– Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

communities of memory

Communities, in the sense in which we are using the term, have a history – in an important sense they are constituted by their past – and for this reason we can speak of a real community as a “community of memory,” one that does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story, its constitutive narrative, and in so doing, it offers examples of the men and women who have embodied and exemplified the meaning of the community. These stories of collective history and exemplary individuals are an important part of the tradition that is so central to a community of memory.

The stories that make up a tradition contain conceptions of character, of what a good person is like, and of the virtues that define such character. But the stories are not all exemplary, not all about successes and achievements. A genuine community of memory  will also tell painful stories of shared suffering that sometimes creates deeper identities than success…. And if the community is completely honest, it will remember stories not only of suffering received but of suffering inflicted – dangerous memories, for they call the community to alter ancient evils. The communities of memory that tie us to the past also turn us toward the future as communities of hope. They carry a context of meaning that can allow us to connect our aspirations for ourselves and those closest to us with the aspirations of a larger whole and see our own efforts as being, in part, contributions to a common good.

  • Robert Bellah et al. from  Habits of the Heart (1985)

I came across this passage in Communities class and was struck by the way last year’s Field Notes project fit this description. (And there are still a few copies left of the collector’s edition left! If you’re interested, contact Rosie at [email protected])

SSU Field Notes cover