Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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First-Day Renewal

'None Shall Make Them Afraid'

In calm and cool and silence, once again
I find my my old accustomed place among
My brethren, where, perchance, no human tongue
Shall utter words, where never hymn is sung,
Nor deep-toned organ blown, nor censor swung,
Nor dim light falling through the pictured pane!
There, syllabled by silence, let me hear
The still small voice which reached the prophet's ear;
Read in my heart a still diviner law
Then Israel's leader on his tables saw!
There let me strive with each besetting sin,
Recall my wandering fancies, and restrain
The sore disquiet of a restless brain;
And, as the path of duty is made plain,
May grace be given that I may walk therein,
Not like the hireling, for his selfish gain,
With backward glances and reluctant tread,
Making a merit of his coward dread,
But, cheerful, in the light around me thrown,
Walking as one to please service led;
Doing God's will as if it were my own,
Yet trust not in mine, but in His Strength alone!

- John Greenleaf Whittier



I didn't go to Quaker meeting last week and was inclined to miss it again today as I counted up the various chores and errands I needed to get done. However, I decided to go out of the belief that absence would lead to a disconnect from the community, and that this was neither good for myself or those I participate in fellowship with. 

After all, Quaker community is founded on interdependence and it should be as much about going to give something to it, even if we don't know what that is, as well as taking away from it. Based on this line of reasoning, it could be argued it is a duty to participate in Meeting for Worship even when we feel we don't need or want to.

As it turned out, the hour proved to be one of what I would describe as 'deep silence' with no vocal ministry given - just the odd shuffling, coughing and turning of pages. At the end a Friend commented that she found meetings in which no vocal ministry is given to be as equally powerful as those with. I found myself in full agreement. I had at times during the meeting, experiencing unsettled points in between a sleepy yet focused stillness, felt an impulse to reach for one of the books on the central table. I resisted as the absence of ordered, concentrated words in voice, print and in mind was proving to be somehow nourishing.

I've looked around tonight for short quotes on silence, as a way of finding expression for what I experienced today. Instead I found a whole article by John Bakas, writing for the Huffington Post.


Inner Voice, Outer Voice

I received a delivery this week of 'A book of Quaker Poems 1652 - 1900', selected by Simon Webb. The book is a short one - although with some lengthy (dare I say, long-winded) poems inside! I've found a few standout gems in there though, with the following speaking to me this weekend:

The Inward Voice

Within the breast of a man a light divine,
Through the clouds of doubt and fear, doth ever shine,
It warns from every false and dangerous road,
And points the way to truth and heaven and God.

In all our doubts and sad perplexities,
The truth itself its own best witness is;
It needs no miracle or outward sign
To make its sacred less more divine.

Lightnings may flash from angry clouds on high,
And thunder dread may rend the vaulted sky;
Mountains may shake, and oceans surge and roar;
The truth is still but truth - nor less nor more.

At Sinai's graven stones with awe we look,
With earnest reverence search the Holy Book;
But older far than book or graver's art
Is God's own record in the mind and heart.

This record, clear to their anointed eyes,
Made all the ancient prophets truly wise;
The light they saw, the heavenly voice they heard,
And spake, in God's own name, his Holy word.

Our spirit unto theirs doth witness bear:
Their message stirs our hearts to faith and prayer;
Their quickened word is bread indeed,
On which our hungry souls, delighted feed.

- Oliver Johnson


For Elsie

It turns out today is 11 years since my grandma, Elsie Hillier, passed away. She did so in difficult circumstances. The event opened our eyes to some of the murkier aspects of care and treatment of the elderly in Britain, although the full truth is still not known.

Anyway, Elsie had 76 years, 76 years of joys and trials. We miss her.

This body is not me. 
I am not limited by this body. 
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born, and I have never died. 

Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, 
manifestations from my wondrous true mind. 

Since before time, I have been free. 
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, 
sacred thresholds on our journey. 

Birth and death are a game of hide - and seek. 
So laugh with me, hold my hand, 
let us say good-bye, say good-bye, to meet again soon. 

We meet today. 
We will meet again tomorrow.

We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life. 

 -- Thich Nhat Hanh, Chanting and Recitations from Plum Village


Still yourself, be re-readied

The working week has ended and many of us will be travelling home with the weight of what has just gone before us and what our calendars say lie ahead. It is important that the weekend is not simply a place to stew on such things. The weekend, known to past generations as the Sabbath, is a time to recuperate and ready ourselves for new possibilities and horizons.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.
And wait without love. For love would be love, 
 of the wrong thing.
Yet there is faith.
But the faith and the hope and the love, are all in the waiting.
And the darkness shall be the light
and the stillness the dancing. 

- T.S. Elliot