This question is neither sarcastic nor rhetoric. As many people insist that violence and atrocities are an inherent part of religions, that religions would cause wars, I really want to know if that is the truth. Personally I believe religions can be peaceful, such as in the cases of the Quakers and the Baha’i, but I might be wrong.
The obvious answer should be “none.” Quakers are well-known as pacifists (fun fact: fake cannon used to deceive the enemy into thinking an army is more fortified than it actually is are called “Quaker guns.”) Individual Quakers have rarely been quite as united around the peace testimony as our reputation would suggest, but as a group it’s true we’ve never called for a war. I can’t think of any military skirmish or battle waged to rallying cries of “Remember the Quakers!”
And yet: all of modern civilization has been shaped by war. Our political boundaries, our religions, our demographic make-up – even the languages we speak are all remnants of long-ago battles. One of the most influential Quaker thinkers, the eighteenth century minister John Woolman, constantly reminded his brethren to consider those luxuries that are the fruit of war and slavery. When we broaden the scope like this, we’ve been involved in quite a few wars.
We like to remember how William Penn founding the colony of Pennsylvania as a religious refuge. But the king of England held European title to the mid-Atlantic seaboard because of small wars with the Dutch and Swedes (and later held onto it only after a much larger war with the French New World settlements).
The king’s grant of “Penn’s Woods” was the settlement of a very large war debt owed to Penn’s father, a wealthy admiral. The senior William Penn was something of a scoundrel, playing off both sides in every-shifting royalist/Roundhead seesaw of power. His longest-lasting accomplishment was taking Jamaica for the British (Bob Marley sang in English instead of Spanish because of Sir William).
By most accounts, William Penn Jr. was fair and also bought the land from local Lenape nations. Mostly forgotten is that the Lenape and Susquehannock population had been devastated in a recent regional war against the Iroquois over beaver territories. The Iroquois were skillfully playing global politics, keeping the English and French colonial empires in enough strategic tension that they could protect their land. They wanted another British colony on their southern flank. The Lenape land reimbursement was secondary.
The thousands of acres Penn deeded to his fellow Quakers were thus the fruits of three sets of wars: colonial wars over the Delaware Valley; debt-fueled English civil wars; and Native American wars fought over access to commercial resources. Much of original Quaker wealth in succeeding generations is indebted to this huge land transfer in the 1680s, either directly (we still hold some valuable real estate) or indirectly (the real estate’s sale could be funneled into promising businesses).
Not all of the fruits of war were secondhand and coincidental to Friends themselves. Many wealthy Friends in the mid-Atlantic colonies had slaves who did much of the backbreaking work of clearing fields and building houses. That quaint old brick meetinghouse set back on a flower-covered field? It was probably built at least in part by enslaved hands.
And today, it’s impossible to step free of war. Most of our houses are set on land once owned by others. Our computers and cell phones have components mined in war zones. Our lights and cars are powered by fossil fuel extraction. And even with solar panels and electric cars, the infrastructure of the daily living of most Americans is still based on extraction and control of resources.
This is not to say we can’t continue to work for a world free of war. But it seems important to be clear-eyed and acknowledge the debts we have.
Twitter has always been a company that succeeds despite its leadership. Many of its landmark featured started as hacks by users. Its first apps were all created by third-party designers, whose good will to the curb when it about-faced and killed most of them by restricted its API. Top-down features like Twitter Music have come and gone. The only interesting grassroots innovation of recent years has been users using image attachments as a way of going past the 140 character limit.
One could argue that these “fatter tweets” is Twitter’s way of building the popular long-text picture hack into the system. Could Twitter management be ready to look at users as co-creators of the wider Twitter culture?
A two-night scouts camping trip with two of my kids to the county facilities at Camp Acagisca nears Mays Landing turned into a one night with one kid affair (my 11yo got way too mouthy when it came time to decide who was going to share a tent with dad and went home immediately; the 9yo ended up in a meltdown mid morning on the second day.)
Camp at dusk
A visitor stops hopping for a moment
Francis stays up to read Curious George stories by flashlight
Cooking eggs in a ziploc bag
The group starts off on a hike down to Great Egg Harbor River
Cool growth on downed trees
A broken down out building from when this was a Girl Scouts camp. thr 2012 Mays Landing derecho came right through here and closed the camp for a long while.
I photographed this mostly to have the emergency number handy if needed.
This guy in Streetview is standing near the spot where the world’s first #selfie portrait was taken in 1839.
Robert Cornelius was one of the first people to try to reproduce Louis Daguerre’s photographic technique after news of the breakthrough reach Philadelphia. A chemist working at his family’s gas lighting company, Cornelius started experimenting with different chemical combinations until he found a way to reduce exposure times so that a person to sit still long enough for a portrait. In October 1839 he took a picture himself “in the yard back of his store and residence, (old) 176 Chestnut Street, above Seventh (now number 710), in Philadelphia,” according to an oral history published half a century later (PDF). Cornelius recounts:
It was our business to make a great variety of articles of plated metal. Very soon afterwards, I made in the factory a tin box, and bought from McAllister, 48 Chestnut Street, a lens about two inches in diameter, such as was used for opera purposes. With these instruments I made the first likeness of myself and another one of some of my children, in the open yard of my dwelling, sunlight bright upon us, and I am fully of the impression that I was the first to obtain a likeness of the human face.
Remarkably, in 2014, the Cornelius and Co. building is still there on Chestnut Street, though barely recognizable, with an extra floor on top and extensive façade changes. It’s a discount drug store. The back is the narrow alley named Ionic Street, home to dumpsters and people wanting to stay out of sight. The yard is to the right of these dumpsters. With #selfie such a popular hashtag, Cornelius’s picture has circulated on a lot of internet lists as the “world’s first selfie.” But it’s historical significance is far greater: it is the first photographic portrait of our species. I’m not typically one for hyperbole, but we humans started seeing ourselves differently after that portrait.
I originally assumed the building on the right of the alley stood where the yard had been but a satellites turns up a surprise: the yard is still there! Looking at the 710 property from above, the buildings facing Chestnut and Ionic are separate – with a large open space in between! There are two sections that look almost to be garden beds.
Yo Philly, how has 710 Chestnut Street not been snatched up and turned into a museum of photographic history? The first floor could focus on nineteenth century Philadelphia innovation, with the still-existent inner courtyard turned into a tourist destination? It would be like catnip. What self-respecting modern tourist wouldn’t walk the few blocks from Independence Hall to take their picture at the very site of the world’s first selfie? I know Philly typically doesn’t respect any history past 1776 but come on!
Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Careful and deliberate discernment held in a manner of unhurried prayer is fine in most instances, but what’s a group if Quakers to do when a fire alarm goes off? Do we sit down in silence, stay centered there some number if minutes, and then open up a period of ministries to reach toward discernment.
Of course we don’t. Who would? Like any group if people in the modern world, we assemble without question and leave the premises. But why? Because of shared language and testimonies.
A ringing bell does not, by itself, constitute a call to action. Power up your time machine and bring your battery-powered alarm system back a few thousand years and set it off. People would look around in confusion (and might be afraid if the alien sound), but they wouldn’t file out of a building. We do it because we’ve been socialized in a language of group warning.
Ever since our schooldays, we have been taught this language: fire alarms, flashing lights, fire pull boxes. We don’t need to discern the situation because we already know what the alarm means: the likelihood of imminent danger.
Our response also needs little discernment. We might think of this as a testimony: a course of action that we’ve realized is so core to our understanding of our relation to the world that it rarely needs to be debated amongst ourselves.
I must have participated in a hundred fire drills in my lifetime, but so far none of the alarms have been fires. But they have served a very real purpose.
When we do media in an advocacy sense, most of our time is spent developing and reinforcing shared language and obvious courses-of-action. We tell stories of previous situations and debate the contours of the testimonies. We’re readying ourselves for when we will be called to action.