Munching on the wheat

There have been a few recent posts about the state of the Quaker blogosphere. New blogger Richard M wrote about "Anger on the Quaker blogs":http://quakerphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/08/anger-on-quaker-blogosphere.html and LizOpp replied back with " Popcorn in the Q-blogosphere?":http://thegoodraisedup.blogspot.com/2006/08/popcorn-in-q-blogosphere.html.


The way I see it, there's not really much need for anger on the internet. There's sure to be something horribly offensive to your spiritual sensibilities right around the next link if only you click. Not only do we have dozens of different definitions of "Quaker," there's absolutely no limits over who gets to call themselves a Quaker. If we want to feel embattled or self-righteous we all have blogs we can visit, but is this really the way toward our individual or corporate spiritual growth? Is this the way to build a new movement of Friends?
The web is a land of blurriness. It's like the open vocal ministry of an unprogrammed meeting taken up a notch or three. We have the new visitors right off the street, seekers who heard about Friends on Wikipedia or Beliefnet and went instantly off to start a blog. There's those meeting regulars with their particular issues, dare we say hang-ups, over particular topics who get bent out of shape if others minister on them. Out in the corners are the cranky meeting back-benchers, trouble-makers who don't mind passing on third-hand gossip or spreading half-truths if it will make them the center of someone's attention. With this kind of mix it's no surprise there's conflict.
There will be disagreements. Many times we can share our understandings and grow but sometimes the gap is too large to bridge and we have to shrug our shoulders and agree to disagree. The boundaries of Quakerism have spread out so far that no one is ever going to agree that everyone calling themselves a Friend really has claim for the name. In past centuries this has led to nasty fights that have destroyed our communities. Nowadays we have the "Back" button. One of the disciplines we need to learn is how to use it.
We don't have to read every post and we certainly don't need to closely follow every Quaker blog out there. We are what we eat and our Quaker blogosphere is what we let it be. If the Quaker blogs seem too angry then maybe it's time to trim your blogroll.
Trimming away annoying and time-wasting sites doesn't mean we keep to like-minded bloggers. I don't focus on blogs with a particular theology or ones that come out of a particular Quaker tradition. What unites my favorite blogs is the care and discernment that goes into them. These bloggers are open to those who use unfamiliar language, listening to where the words come from, and they're curious and open to learning and tender with their comments. This is what true ministry looks like, no?
_ps: If you want to confuse people, write a post with an evocative name and then take out the reference. "Wheat" comes from the "parable of the wheat and weeds":http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2013:24-30;&version=31; which LizOpp introduced in the "comments of her post":http://thegoodraisedup.blogspot.com/2006/08/popcorn-in-q-blogosphere.html and which I elaborated on in an earlier draft of this post._

  • Aj

    I’ve noticed that it’s not just an angry Quak­er blo­gos­phere, or an angry blo­gos­phere in gen­er­al, but rather a cul­ture seri­ous­ly marked by anger. For me, anger is usu­al­ly a defense mech­a­nism respond­ing to when folks trig­ger my wound­ings: I rec­og­nize it’s a place where I need some seri­ous heal­ing, where I need to expe­ri­ence God’s peace, and I hope to help oth­ers find that as well. I won­der if that should be part of our Quak­er tes­ti­mony as well … peace as in no war and peace as in a whole spir­it.…
    I, too, tend to find myself drawn to the more authen­tic post­ings rather than the most infor­ma­tive or struc­tured or branch-oriented. I want to hear peo­ples’ sto­ries, jour­neys, where they are find­ing God reach­ing out and embrac­ing them. I want this to be a wor­ship­ful expe­ri­ence rather than a con­sumeris­tic one: when I find myself anx­ious that I’m not read­ing enough or miss­ing out on some­thing, it’s time to take a step back.
    Thanks for writ­ing this post (and work­ing in a ran­dom title — nice!).

  • Y’know, Mar­t­in, I feel like I should com­ment here, but I find myself unusu­al­ly qui­et… or else a post might be in the mak­ing and I’m keep­ing my thoughts to myself!
    Bless­ings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  • Hmmm… sor­ry, Mar­t­in, but I can’t join in your con­cern about anger in the blo­gos­phere, when it seems to me that [start­beat­inglamemetaphor] there’s a hole in the blo­go­lay­er itself. To con­tin­ue to beat upon the lame metaphor, I sense the oxy­gen has hissed out. [/endbeatinglamemetaphor]
    The Blogs, to put it more plain­ly, are nei­ther as fun nor as col­le­gial as they once were. I sense that peo­ple are los­ing inter­est. In regards to the gen­er­al state of affairs, I’m in no posi­tion to elab­o­rate fur­ther (because I would be guess­ing).
    But I can say from per­son­al expe­ri­ence, my own blog evolved from a sim­ple plat­form to urge Amer­i­ca to cel­e­brate a good quak­ergray poet to an instant-publication medi­um for estab­lish­ing my pri­or­i­ty in mak­ing his­tor­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies.
    It stretched fur­ther to reflect my advo­ca­cy for Quak­er tes­ti­monies in the ‘real’ (real wicked that is!) world.
    (In fact, I would go so far as to say that once you begin to tan­gle with the world you can get pret­ty busy, because it’s unfath­omably wicked.)
    And then the blog began to sprawl fur­ther into com­men­tary on news and pol­i­tics.
    Pret­ty soon, it also con­tained well over four hun­dred his­tor­i­cal obser­va­tions, mak­ing it pret­ty unweildy. The chief inter­face for find­ing any­thing was Google, rather than the dis­play struc­ture of the site.
    And, besides, in the end, the location-patterns reg­is­ter­ing on my siteme­ter sug­gest­ed that its biggest fans were far-right Chris­tian think tanks.
    So it was time to move on.
    LoG was a web­site before it was blog, and now, it’s chang­ing again with the times. I’m cur­rent­ly begin­ning to use the Dojo Toolk­it to serve up con­tent from a rudi­men­try data­base of his­tor­i­cal facts.
    The user-interface has been recon­fig­ured as a kind of time machine for per­sons, places, and dates that rep­re­sent the chains of cause and effect which run his­to­ry. The UI will sit there solid and reli­able in a sta­t­ic shell while the data flows into the “ajax” slots. (Look, Ma, I’m doing client-side Ajax!)
    To return to the issue of com­mu­ni­ty, though, this is all very unset­tled right now. I don’t know whether we shall ever be able to build our new cyberci­ty of Friends, invin­ci­ble to attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth.
    But I’m still out there, sur­round­ed, in mea­sure­less oceans of space, cease­less­ly mus­ing, ven­tur­ing, throw­ing…
    The con­nec­tions I’ve made, how­ev­er, with the help of the blog, are pre­cious to me.
    Duc­tile anchors, so to speak. Gos­samer threads… I hope they hold.

  • *Hi Mitch:* Sor­ry it’s not so fun any­more. I first found Leaves of Grass in its pre-blog state and loved fol­low­ing the stream of links and the paths it took me. The sto­ries hung togeth­er in a way the blog posts nev­er did. I’m inter­est­ed to see how the new ver­sion looks!
    In my expe­ri­ence of online com­mu­ni­ties there’s a def­i­nite hon­ey­moon peri­od when some­one first joins – every­thing is pos­si­bil­i­ties and the new medi­um gives us a place to share the pent-up thoughts that have been sit­ting un-vocalized in our heads (after start­ing my blog I found Quak­er­Ran­ter ready mini-essays from late 90s sit­ting on my hard-drive unsent and unpub­lished!). After a while things qui­et down. May­be the new­com­er has said all they have to say. May­be they’re tired of hav­ing the same con­ver­sa­tion for the fifth time.
    But here’s the thing: the con­ver­sa­tion is still new to those who haven’t had it. Friends are still dis­cov­er­ing blogs. We still need to have those con­ver­sa­tions. I expect that some of the reg­u­lars will wan­der off (as they have since the begin­ning) and only check in from time to time. Some will take it as a min­istry of sorts to stay involved and help set the tone and give the back­ground.
    I should say too that I’m not look­ing for a cyber-city. The best part of all this blog­ging comes when peo­ple get off the com­put­er and meet face-to-face. It’s espe­cial­ly excit­ing when they’re meet­ing some­one they wouldn’t have got­ten to know with­out the blog net­works. We’re mak­ing con­nec­tions here, deep­en­ing our under­stand­ing of Quak­erism and get­ting com­fort­able with spir­i­tu­al talk (at least three blog­gers are being pub­lished for the first time in Quak­er mag­a­zi­nes this sum­mer).