from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel
By Ruth Zweifler
This month’s Reading is an unsolicited contribution by a member of our Meeting who has been “thinking a lot about how words lead us.”
Words are recognized for their powerful ability to transmit ideas. They also perform another, less acknowledged but even more powerful function. The language we use, the words we choose, subtly and relentlessly shape those ideas and concepts.
The pervasive use of win/lose, adversarial terms, and sports metaphors permeate our society and influence actions and attitudes. Our legal system is a battle of wits – and money – rather than a search for truth. War and peace is sanitized by game images. Recently a commentator justified the Mars landing project by reminding listeners how unacceptable it would be if China got there before we did; we would no longer be #1.
From earliest school days children pledge allegiance to a country “with liberty and justice for all.” Done. Completed. Challenging the reality of that assertion is un-American. But what if the pledge were modified in this manner: “working to assure liberty and justice for all”? Might not such a pledge provide a basis for examining the work still to be accomplished?
And in Sunday Schools throughout the land, congregations – adults and children – are reminded of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you,” thus ingraining an egocentric world view. John Woolman’s admonition turns the Rule around:
Our blessed Redeemer, in directing us how to conduct one towards another,
appeals to our own feeling: “Whatsoever ye would that other men should do
to you, do ye even so to them.” Now where such live in fullness on the labour
of others, who have never had experience of hard labour themselves, there is
often a danger of their not having a right feeling of the labourer’s condition,
and therefore of being disqualified to judge candidly in their case, not
knowing what they themselves would desire were they to labour hard from
one year to another to raise the necessities of life …. (pp. 241-42)
Treat others as they would wish to be treated? Much harder to do.
Friends have developed a precise and comprehensive vocabulary that reflects and conveys the world view we strive to make real. We do not speak of looking at the Light – from this comes blindness. Rather we seek to walk in the Light that opens our way through an ever-changing world. We endeavor to walk lightly on this earth as we seek that of God in everyone and a world of peace and justice for all. We do not find answers; we respond to queries. We continue to seek.