Posts Tagged 'quakerism'

Meeting of Seouls (the pun, it’s killing me!)

I will write more about it later, but today I went to the Quaker Meeting that’s in Seoul.  Even though I had never met any of the people there, and hadn’t been to a Meeting in a long time, it felt oddly familiar (in a good way).

Some of the members offered to let me stay with them in the future when I come to Seoul.  Given the stress that sometimes results from my surprisingly hectic life in the backwater of Korea, I would love to be able to trek up to Seoul once a month or so to attend Meeting there.  The train costs about $35 each way, which isn’t bad, but the main thing that keeps me from going to various destinations is the lodging cost.  With that out of the picture, it becomes quite affordable.  Plus, once they move me back into my overly-large apartment, I will be able to have guests again, and I can return the favor!

Anyway, I need to go to sleep for now, but I will write more about it later.

Simplicity Part #2 or “The Great Purge”

As I mentioned in my post previous to this, the storage facility I had used to temporarily stash my belongings was 5x10ft.  It was filled solid, wall to wall, and most of it was stacked over my head.  Thankfully, I am a relatively organized person, so it was all in bins, and not loose, but many of the bins had just been filled willy-nilly in my hurry to move out of my dorm room at the end of college.

Seeing that wall of stuff was extremely intimidating.  I had about 2 days to reduce my belongings to be able to fit easily into my truck, so about 3/4 of a truckload.  What I had in storage was slightly over three truckloads.  When I rolled up the storage door and the mass of stuff was revealed, I almost felt nauseous at the thought of the task ahead, especially since packing and moving are both very emotional, sentimental activities for me, and getting rid of belongings even more so, so this was like the coup de grâce on my emotions at the time.

My initial reason for clearing out so many things was that I would have nowhere to put them while in Korea.  I couldn’t afford to keep them in storage, I didn’t want to burden Colin with more than a bin or two, Marc was still living at his parents at the time, and I didn’t want to take too much home to Texas, as I would just have to schlep it back up to the Northeast when I returned.  However, this changed.  Eventually, as I was traveling, I realized that I really enjoyed the freedom of being able to move myself entirely around in one vehicle.  It gave me a profound sense of freedom.  I realized that I felt tied down by my belongings, and that they had many times kept me from pursuing the snap decisions I so love to make.

One of the Quaker testimonies is Simplicity.  I have a complex relationship with this one.  To some people, I seem simple.  I don’t usually wear clothes with any sort of design, etc, and they’re virtually always functional.  I like the countryside, and the peace and quiet it provides.  I don’t like my life to be complicated.  I like living in small spaces.  To some, I seem complex.  I have many interests and hobbies, and always have my hands in several pots at once.  According to some, I even at times seem to have different personalities for different types of situations.  I have given this issue much thought, but not much has really come of it, unfortunately.

Simplifying one’s life is definitely one of the Quaker goals, but I have to say – that is not why I did it.  In fact, I’d say that it probably didn’t even enter my mind at the time.  Now, I will explain here that generally, when I am doing something “Quakerly”, I am rarely aware of it.  It is not a conscious decision to do something because it’s something a creed says I should do.  I do it because it’s what I feel is right at the time.  However, afterwards, I often end up looking at the situation and subsequently thinking “Wow, that was a very Quaker thing to do…” in hindsight.  This was certainly one of those cases.

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Before this, every single time I had moved, I had weeded out things by rummaging in my bins and pulling items out, or by setting aside items to give away/get rid of as I was shoveling everything into the bins.  As I stared at this tower of possessions, I had somewhat of an epiphany.

What if, rather than choosing things to get rid of, I chose things to keep?

I pulled out a bin at random, opened it, and dumped the contents on the floor.  It was clothes.  Now, I am not a fashion person by any stretch of the imagination, but clothes do hold a lot of sentimental value with me.  I poked at the pile of clothes with the tip of my shoe.  I saw something I knew I wanted to keep.  I picked it up, and put it back in the bin.  I knelt down and began to dig through the small pile.  I found a few things that I liked, but was unsure about.  I put them in a separate pile.  I found several things that I knew I no longer needed, and threw them towards a corner, about 6-8 feet away, out of my line of sight.  They were things that I had not worn in quite some time and would likely not be wearing again in the future.  Some were clothes that were heavily worn but that I had saved as “work clothes”, even though I always am getting new “work clothes”, as I am extremely tough on my clothes and they don’t generally last more than 2-2 years in a state fit for general usage.

In effect, what I was doing was a different sort of emotional sorting.  Rather than having to go through my bins and pull out things that I didn’t want to keep or that I felt I should get rid of, I was selecting things that I did want to keep.  Removing items is, by nature, a negative act.  It is a rejection of material memories.  Saving items, by contrast, is a positive act.  Rather than looking at my belongings and thinking “Well, X, Y, and Z aren’t important enough, so they can go…” I was thinking “Hm.  While everything here is important to me in a way, items A, B, and C are really the most important.”.  This simple difference between affirmation and devaluation was like a lightbulb had suddenly been switched on.  More like a floodlight, really, but I’m going to stick with the more common analogy here.

For many people, myself very much included, culling belongings is a very emotional task, triggering all sorts of memories and nostalgia (and often guilt – when’s the last time you wore that sweater your grandmother bought you?!) for them.  I have sometimes heard this referred to as an “emotional leash”, and I have always hated the negative tone that term implies.  Memories are a good thing.  They allow us to learn from the past (so that we may not repeat it!).  They allow us to take solace in times of stress.  Without memories, we would make almost no personal progress at all.

By using this method, I was able to get rid of somewhere between 65-75% of my belongings (well, those not back at my family home, at least) in two days of 3-ish hour shifts at the storage facility.  There were times when I kept most of what was in a bin, and times when I only took out a few items to keep and dumped the rest into one of my donation boxes.  By the end of it all, I had almost two truckloads of stuff to donate.  I ended up donating the stuff to a couple different charities, and all told, ended up with around $2500 in tax deduction receipts.  Considering how much stuff devalues when you donate it, that should tell you how much stuff there was.

I feel much more “free” now.  I know that I can pack up all of my belongings into my truck (or about two normal-sized cars).  I have virtually nothing that doesn’t get used on at least a semi-regular basis, and that has translated into me really thinking about my purchases these days.  I don’t want to have to go through another purge of that magnitude again, at least not for several years, and so I am taking preventative measures.  I certainly still buy things, but before I do, I think about how much I will use it, and whether or not it would have passed my prior test.  This has made a serious impact on how I live my life, and I feel that it is most definitely a positive one.

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Anyway, that’s pretty much it.  It didn’t come out as eloquently or as organized as I was planning, but that’s what happens when I write something over the course of three days!  I’d love to hear your commentary though!

Here, by the way, is a photo of me with the resulting pile of belongings.  That, right there, is pretty much everything I own (and two of those bins are reenacting gear).  As I mentioned in the post, originally that entire space was 5×10 and full to over my head.  In this photo it’s about 2.5 feet wide by 3.5 feet high by 7 feet long.  I’m standing next to it for scale, and I’m 5’0″.

 

Essentially everything I own...

Me and essentially everything I own...

Reenacting Post #1: Pacifism Amongst Wanna-be Warriors

This ended up being a lot more meandering than I intended it to be, but it should still be interesting. There will be another post later about other aspects.

One thing I have come to terms with over the years is that in reenacting (for those of you who have not read my “who am I?” page, I am a historical reenactor, as is Marc, my significant other), the environment is not exactly conducive to much conversation about anything political, etc. Most reenactors, with some exceptions of course, are pretty far on the conservative/right side of the political spectrum. Not only that, but they are pretty vocal about it, and relatively unopen to discussion. While I tend to shy away from discussing politics anyway given that I grew up as a liberal in Texas and learned to think without speaking, we do discuss history a lot at events, and that unfortunately can sometimes lead to a discussion of politics, as the two are inextricably entwined with eachother.

Marc likes to joke that “If you want to really know what it’s like to be the outsider at an event, try being both a Quaker and French. I’m about as pacifist as you can get, but I’m surrounded by people who love war.”. Now, we both love the *study* of war, and are fascinated by human conflicts, but we both are anti-war and pro-peace, and that is often met with a less than warm welcome. Marc deals with insults to his French-ness (“Who’d you surrender to today? Har har har!”) by mentioning that until WWI, the French were actually pretty badass, militarily, and in fact it is often argued that the colonists would not have won the American Revolution had the French not stepped in to assist. Given that these are reenactors, this usually shuts them up, as it appeals to their historical interests.

As I mentioned above, I tend to avoid topics at reenactments that I suspect will bring argument. Many, many reenactors are either current military or are vets, and they don’t take very kindly to an anti-war stance. I get around this often by stating that I do support the troops (I used to write letters, send packages, etc), but that I just feel that our military could be more efficiently used. This isn’t a lie – I do feel that it could be more efficiently used – I just neglect to say that my idea of efficiency involves removing most of the troops from the Middle East, except in areas that still need stability reinstated., and moving them instead to areas that they are needed, such as the Sudan and various disaster areas. I prefer not to create conflicts, and since I am often somewhat of the “publicity officer” for groups I am in (I often recruit members, I run our websites, etc), I have to maintain a relatively neutral public stance, so as to not offend the wrong people and have us starting to “not be invited” to events.

Some reenactors who are also military personnel have a more interesting stance – for instance, one of the members of Marc and I’s WWII Soviet group, Robbie, is a Marine reservist, and while he loves the Marines, he does not always support what they do, and in fact he’s quite a counter-culture fan. He’s not for the war, but he’s not against it either – he understands the reasons, but disagrees with the methods. He’s a reservist, but is such out of a feeling of duty, rather than a love of the military. His rebellious streak shows up in his reenacting persona, as he can often be found off in the background, complaining about our commander. Our commander is a former member of the reserve branch one of the various military branches (I can’t remember which), and he laments that he never got to “see action” before his enlistment expired. He ends up taking this frustration out on our unit, and he tries to stand at the non-existent top (we try to be a little more horizontally organized than vertically, unlike most groups) and complain that we’re not “military-like” enough. Newsflash: We’re not in the military, buddy. Sure, I agree that we need to learn how to be in formation properly, and commands and such, but I am not about to be ordered around by someone who is trying to relive a past he never had by bossing his friends around. In the field, we adhere to our various ranks, but when we’re just relaxing at the end of the day? Hell. No. While I may enjoy “playing war”, I certainly want the similarity to end there.

I have always felt a degree of discomfort around the majority of reenactors for reasons like this, but really, in the end, reenacting is far too big a part of my life, and I have been doing it far too long (almost 13 years now!) for me to give it up. It’s my main hobby, and a massive stress-reliever, and it would take something really, really major for me to give it up. Hell, I’m even a little deaf because of it, but that hasn’t even slowed me down.

Anyway. Another post coming soon about the conflict surrounding reenacting, which can often glorify war, and my personal feelings of being against war.

What is this?

I intend to use this space to talk about my feelings on religion, spirituality, etc.  I was raised in a non-religious, non-spiritual home, but have always considered myself a rather spiritual person.  I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church in college, but switched to attending a Quaker Meeting (on a very, very irregular basis) by the end of my studies.  Though I have not attended a meeting on a regular basis, due to my moving around so much, it has very much resonated with me.  I am overseas right now, and upon my return to the US, I intend to further explore this aspect of my life more directly, but for now, I’d just like to use this space as somewhat of a “brain dump” on the subject of me and spirituality, etc.

Oh, and the title of the blog is from a joke that a friend of mine made once, that the bumpersticker for Quakers should be:  “Quakerism:  Shut Up and Listen”.   Given my propensity to talk my head off, I often have to tell myself this, and so I found it funny and appropriate.


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