Sunday, July 26, 2009

My dream about Yearly Meeting

Last Sunday many Friends from my local meeting left for Silver Bay, New York to attend New York Yearly Meeting summer sessions. I was unable to attend this year (as I have been for several years), so I returned home and went about my usual activities.

Sunday night (or - - strictly speaking - - early Monday morning) I had a dream that seemed to concern the Yearly Meeting. Usually I don't remember my dreams so the very fact that I do remember it makes this one seem important to me. I will narrate it as briefly as I can and then comment on it.

In the dream I was in a large classroom, sitting in almost the back row. The classroom was the site of a meeting for business of the New York Yearly Meeting and the clerk of the meeting (not the person who is the actual clerk of NYYM in waking life) was sitting at the teacher's desk. Someone was reading a proposed State of the Society Report to the Meeting, which was expected to adopt it. As the reading progressed I realized that the room in which we sat was moving. Specifically, it was descending. In part of the dream it seemed to be moving downwards vertically, as an elevator would. In part of the dream it seemed to be moving down steep track as a roller coaster would. No one but me seemed disturbed by this downward motion, but as it became more rapid I began to wonder if we were moving downward at a normal pace or if we actually begun to fall.

As all this was going on I was also listening to the State of Society report and I noticed that it made no mention of a loss of members over the years. A person sitting behind me tried to get the clerk's attention to point this out but was not successful. Finally I called out "clerk,please!" and asked that something be added to the report to acknowledge our loss of members. The clerk responded that the minute had already been approved and it was time to move on to other business. Then I woke up.

comment: This dream is almost certainly about many other things in addition to the Religious Society of Friends and the New York Yearly Meeting. I've been profoundly affected by the loss of old friends to death in the past year and a half and also by the threatened loss of loved ones to disorders such as alcoholism and addiction and disease. Insofar as we and our friends and loved ones are "members of one another", the idea of "losing members" can have very broad application. In addition, my own neurological problems in the past year have made me very conscious of the aging process, of the thought that I may have crested the hill of life and be moving down the other side, and of the thought that I am slowly losing pieces of myself (members). So I admit that all of that may have its place in this dream.

But it's worth noting that ostensibly the dream is about a yearly meeting and its deliberations about its own state. In the dream the yearly meeting is moving downward rapidly and possibly falling. In the dream I am sitting near the back, far from the clerk, nursing doubts and fears that aren't heard. In the dream the meeting takes place in a classroom, but those of us attending it don't seem to be learning anything.

There is a sense of loss in this dream, and a sense of my own role being nearly irrelevant (next-to-last row in the classroom). This is quite different from my conscious waking understanding of where the RSofF really is. I have been very upbeat about Friends for many years. I'm not sure what, if anything, can be learned from this dream either about myself or about our meetings. But I thought it would be good to share it.

Comments welcomed.


Anonymous Licia Kuenning said...

Nice to hear from you again with something commentable on. Do it more often!

The RSofF has been treating my own input as irrelevant for most of the 40+ years I've been in contact with it, and your "conscious waking understanding" of that organization has usually left me wondering whether you are in fact conscious or awake. Still, I keep checking your blog.

I've never been able to understand the concern about whether the organization loses members. If it doesn't stand for truth why would we want it to have lots of members?

I've written a pamphlet entitled "There is no Right to be Agreed with" addressed to the controversy about the definition of marriage here in Maine. I'll be glad to send a free copy to any reader of this blog who requests it, but please DON'T repeat this offer on some list I don't belong to, as I can't afford to print limitless copies. The issues are similar in many places, but right now I am trying to influence a Maine election.

I have no organization. Whenever I encounter an organization I find out pretty early that it has its own agenda which has little to do with truth or with any concern of mine.

Meanwhile "all my cats are in one basket," and the basket must be somewhere in Farmington - if only I could find the fluffy little things.

7:22 AM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Fascinating dream, in all of it's possible meanings. I frequently find myself thinking "is this really what we need to be talking about?" in Friends settings. We have quite a talent for ignoring the most obvious issues to focus instead on fine points of process and cathartic pats on the back about our progressive attitudes toward social issues.

To go with your analogy, I think I've slipped so many rows back that I'm sitting outside the meetinghouse on the front stoop watching the people walk by. Where are they going? Are they lost? Do the people inside the meetinghouse have anything to say to all those outside? I pop back in if someone asks me to help move a bench, say, or paint a wall but I'm not sure what I'd have to contribute if I stayed there in the meetinghouse (finances and a complicated family life also play a part).

I'm interested to know more about your optimistic view outside of the meetinghouse. What sustains that? What does it look like?

4:52 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

I do know that I've been in touch with dozens of people who identified with the Friends tradition but left Friends, mostly after experiences in liberal meetings. A number of them were very active, sometimes officers or committee clerks at the time they left.

So something has been going on in recent decades that doesn't look like a healthy Society.

8:26 PM, July 27, 2009  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Thanks to Licia and Martin for their comments. I'm going to discuss this dream a bit more in a separate post.

3:02 PM, July 31, 2009  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

P.S. Thanks to Bill as well, I didn't intend to omit him from the previous comment.

3:05 PM, July 31, 2009  

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