Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Best of My Tradition


Occasionally, it is important for me and, probably for all of us, to return to our roots and revel in that.  Tradition is another word for roots.  In my case that is the Quaker tradition.  All of us grow up with some kind of tradition---or with the lack of a tradition.  Not all traditions are religious.  But we grow up with tradition.  However, at some point we usually have to decide whether that tradition is for us.  As an adult, do I still want to claim and be claimed by that tradition?

In my case, the answer has been affirmative.  As a boy, I did not learn that much about my own Quaker tradition.  Or what is more likely, I heard a good bit about it, but did not pay much attention!  But as I grew older, I came to appreciate more and more that tradition into which I was born.  There are some really good things about that tradition.

However, I do find that tradition challenging.  Sometimes, I am convinced Quakers of old---those founders of the tradition---were so much better at being spiritual than I am and, perhaps, so many others in our contemporary world.  For example, traditionally Quakers have a solid history of peacemaking.

Peacemaking is not simply being afraid to fight.  It is not a philosophical-chicken way to opt out of conflict.  Peacemaking---pacifism, if you will, is an active life in the Spirit working toward harmony and healing.  The other facet of peacemaking is the restoring of things in the wake of wars and disasters.

The best example of that can be seen in the awarding to Quakers in 1947 the Nobel Peace Prize for their post-war reconstruction work in Europe.  My tradition possesses this wonderful heritage and I love reading about it.  I am inspired by it.

Listen to these words delivered in 1947 at the awards’ ceremony. “The Quakers have shown us that it is possible to translate into action what lies deep in the hearts of many: compassion for others and the desire to help them - that rich expression of the sympathy between all men, regardless of nationality or race, which, transformed into deeds, must form the basis for lasting peace. For this reason alone the Quakers deserve to receive the Nobel Peace Prize today.”

I long to be able to translate into action what lies deep in my heart, namely, compassion for others and a desire to help.  If I could do that, I would be boldly walking the spiritual path.  I would be able to shed any selfishness.  I could not possibly be self-centered.  I want to live up to my tradition.

As good as these words are, I like how the awards’ ceremony finishes.  About Quakers it was said, “But they have given us something more: they have shown us the strength to be derived from faith in the victory of the spirit over force.”  The key is faith.  Do I have faith in the victory of the spirit?  Can I translate this faith into action?  That’s the question.  That’s the challenge.
As long as it is solely a question or merely the challenge, nothing happens.  Faith is really not much until translated into action.  A challenge is hypothetical until it is really engaged and executed.

I realize whatever I do will probably not make the news and, certainly, not win a Nobel Prize.  But I can change the world---my little corner of the world.  That’s how I can add to the best of my tradition.


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