Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boot! Reboot!

I'm feeling like it's maybe time to come back to the blog. Not that my workload is any lighter, but I do feel more fully settled in the new sets of questions that I dove into last fall.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, they point right back at some older questions from the blog.

As I've said a lot (and others too), I work in a field — cartography — dominated by Fact, and this field has been critiqued by those who feel that the world is too hemmed in by Fact, and not open enough to Feeling and even Fancy.

I also am part of a religious community that, while it uses the term "clearness" in its internal language, is very much interested in "movements of the Spirit" — hardly fact-based scientific understandings. And yet, serving on Ministry and Counsel the last couple years, I see us often called to help with very physical, practical challenges. And I've been surprised to find my own spiritual sense of things moving more and more unambiguously into the physical and practical.

I've done some light reading in cellular biology over the past bit — I think it requires somewhat more mental energy than I have right now, but the one piece I took away from what I did read was the sense that what defines life and living things more than anything else is the constant flow of energy through the living system. It's when that energy flow stops that life peters out... It's a simple, obvious observation, but looking at that energy flow on a cellular level really brought home to me how the stuff of life — the organism, the food, the juices and fiber and all the other stuff we look at — is the platform within which life itself — the flow of energy within the system — operates. Probably some actual biologist will correct me gently on this observation, but that's my takeaway for now.

And so the questions I've been carrying with me about our Friends meeting, and how we can understand it as a thing unto itself, and not just an association of people, is informed by this: that what makes it a thing is not a common fact or object or other graspable commonality, but in fact the social and spiritual energy that flows through it. And is there really a difference between social and spiritual energy? Is the difference, as in so many things, the direction we are willing to approach it from?

I had a really good thoughtful conversation last night with Michael and Jenny, about care and support structures within our meeting. He expressed his sadness that our care structures often do not include physical support, certainly not usually for folks who are outside of Meeting. We don't do a lot of charity. I wonder how we can approach (or allow ourselves to be approached by) strangers, particularly the marginalized — which as Michael pointed out was unambiguously Jesus' charge to his followers — and not be "sucked dry"?

Not much really new on maps in the meantime; but perhaps this will circle around. Time will tell.

Good to be back.