Sunday, March 25, 2012

I went to Meeting this morning at the Society of Friends in Planckstraße.  I got there very early; the woman who greeted me, Gisela Faust, talked to me for a while before the meeting began.   The Meeting was founded in 1920, after the First World War.  It had been here through National Socialism, through the Second World War and everything that followed. I asked if she had been here for all this; she said yes, she was 98. (I think I heard that right.)  She then said that Quakers addressed each other as du.  (I had used Sie.) Which of course they would - except it had never occurred to me.  The early Quakers used only thou for the second-person pronoun, I think not only for each other but for everyone; now English pronouns no longer offer a distinction comparable to that between 'you' and 'thou'; I had never bothered to think about Quaker linguistic practice in languages that had kept the informal second person singular.  (Since you ask, the German plural of Quaker is Quäker. A form it is impossible not to love.)

I used to go to Meeting quite often in Chesterfield, but I have not gone often since.  I did go once in New York last autumn.  As you may know, Meetings are normally silent, but if someone is moved to speak they may do so. The principle is that there is that of God in everyone.  The contributions the spirit moves people to make are, as you can probably imagine, something of a mixed bag; this Meeting was silent for about 20 minutes or so and then became rather talkative. I missed the silence. After several contributions a woman stood up, placed her hands on the back of the seat in front of her, and remained standing in silence.  A couple of minutes passed. Another woman stood up and began to share some insight. The silent woman said: I am standing in silence.

I didn't know you could do that, preemptively stake out a space for silence.  What a wonderful convention!  And how splendid it would be if some such convention were more widely available.



Ted Lemon said...

It was completely silent on the Paris metro train this morning (aside from the mechanical noises, of course). I don't think I've ever experienced that on a train. It was lovely.

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