Practicing Hope

I keep returning to the question, “are we really listening for that still small voice during our prayers, and meeting for worship? Do we practice hope?” Or do we force what we hear to conform to our current worldview? Do we do a sort of reinterpretation of what we hear? If we heard “give up all your possessions”, would we?

I sign my email messages “practicing hope”.


People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn. Like any such discipline, it’s work that takes time, which you fail at, succeed, improve, fail at again, and build over years inside yourself.

Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life. To practice hope is to face hard truths, harder truths than you can face without the practice of hope. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places. Hope lets you study environmental destruction, war, genocide, exploitative relations between peoples. It lets you look into the darkest parts of human history, and even the callous entropy of a universe hell bent on heat death no matter what we do. When you are disciplined in hope, you can face these things because you have learned to put them in context, you have learned to swallow joy and grief together, and wait for peace.

IT IS BITTER TEA THAT INVOLVES YOU SO: A SERMON ON HOPE by Quinn Norton, April 30, 2018

I don’t remember reading what that quote referred to, so I read that this morning.

When Hypoc was through meditating with St. Gulik, he went there into the kitchen where he busied himself with preparing the feast and in his endeavor, he found that there was some old tea in a pan left standing from the night before, when he had in his weakness forgot about its making and had let it sit steeping for 24 hours. It was dark and murky and it was Hypoc’s intention to use this old tea by diluting it with water. And again in his weakness, chose without further consideration and plunged into the physical labor of the preparations. It was then when deeply immersed in the pleasure of that trip, he had a sudden loud clear voice in his head saying “it is bitter tea that involves you so.” Hypoc heard the voice, but the struggle inside intensified, and the pattern, previously established with the physical laboring and the muscle messages coordinated and unified or perhaps coded, continued to exert their influence and Hypoc succummed to the pressure and he denied the voice.

And again he plunged into the physical orgy and completed the task, and Lo as the voice had predicted, the tea was bitter.

From Page 37 of the Pricipia Discordia, 5th edition

Hypoc succummed to the pressure and he denied the voice.

During this morning’s prayers I was thinking that still small voice must have been ignored when grave wrongs were done, are being done. The focus of my prayers these past few years relate to the genocide of indigenous peoples. And the forced assimilation that was a large part of that.

Quaker involvement in the Indian Boarding Schools evokes strong emotions among Friends today. Deep trauma in Indigenous communities that are experiencing multigenerational trauma. Where wounds have been ripped open by locating the remains of children who died or were killed in those institutions. Grief for those not yet found.

But the process of “thinking” is problematic. Thinking involves the brain, with logic and knowledge. That still small voice is not about thinking.

Logically (thinking), from today’s vantage point, forced assimilation and genocide were absolutely wrong.

We don’t know what that still small voice led the Quakers in those days to do. We can’t judge them because we don’t know what they heard. But we can’t leave it at that. We have a responsibility to find the truth of what occurred in those “schools”. We must know the truth so healing can begin. Healing for Indigenous peoples and for Quakers.

This tragedy should lead us to re-evaluate our own lives today. To hear what that still small voice is saying to us. And to do what it is saying.

What will future generations think about when they look back at what we have done, are doing now?


Addressing the Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools

This document from the Friends Committee on National Legislation is about addressing the legacy of Indian Boarding Schools.

  • Minute your concern and commitment to action, including your support for this bill in your monthly meeting, Friends church, and/or yearly meeting.
    • This year’s report of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) can be found below, which supports the bill.
  • Share your statement(s) with FCNL at Quakers@fcnl.org. We are compiling them on our website and can help you relay them to your members of Congress and the media: fcnl.org/NativeAmerican
    • Our Peace and Social Concerns Report has been sent to FCNL
  • Write your members of Congress about your concern: fcnl.org/BoardingSchools. You can customize FCNL campaign letters and send them directly to Congress from any Internet-connected device. Invite Friends in your community to contact their officials as well
    • We are making appoints with Iowa Senators Ernst and Grassley to discuss the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444) We are working with the (Indigenous) Great Plains Action Society on this.



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