This year I have committed to participating in the Quaker Alphabet Blog Project. I have created a separate page with a little more information too. What it means is that I will try to post a blog for each letter of the alphabet thoughout the year, interpreting this theme as it takes my fancy and reading what others write. I must be a glutton for punishment: I barely managed the Bloggers for Peace monthly post in 2013! Still, EBL is always up for a challenge. Either I can feel a great sense of achievement or have fun beating myself up for failing. What’s not to like?
So today I start with A for Afterwards. Because when you start something I find it pays to think a little about what happens afterwards. I am a project manager. I get paid to do this kind of stuff.
I suppose Afterwards is in my mind because in starting this project I am already thinking about what more I will be committing to doing in 2015. That’s the way the EBL brain works I’m afraid. Never focus on today when there is a hypothetical future to take all my attention and energy away from the moment.
“But EBL! This is supposed to be a Quaker Alphabet!” I hear you cry.
Oh, alright. Let’s get down to it.
One of the things that appealed to me about Quakerism when I came across it in the green of my youth was the lack of going-on about an Afterlife and Heaven and Hell and all kinds of similar dubiousness. I liked very much the focus on practical doing and thinking about how to make our current and shared existence a better one. (And yes, I am aware this is in painful contradiction to the earlier paragraph where I confessed to focusing on the future at the expense of the present. I’m only human you know. It’s an ambition to be more present, rather than an actual, you know, achievement.)
Back to the Quakers though. People are what can make a difference. They make it not only in their contribution to community and the wide world, but also in the odd comment or conversation which can affect other lives. I was a member of a particular Quaker Meeting on the outskirts of London where I met a very special Quaker who once spoke about her understanding of the Afterlife.
Have you had the experience of finding someone who articulates for you what you wish or hope were true. Life after death was not a regular feature of the discussion I had been participating in, so I was not entirely clear what other Quakers thought about it. It was therefore with the most wonderful feeling of relief that I heard this learned and respected person tell me what I felt in my heart to be true.
“I don’t care about what comes after I die,” she said. “I’ll find out if and when it happens. Life is more important.”
This for me summed up what I felt to be important in my faith: life, in the here and now, was the most important thing to think about. Not hypothetical future events of a frankly superstitious and unverifiable nature.
And so, my dears, it is. We live this life together, as many times as fits your personal belief framework, and we can but help each other along the way. There is no After that is not Now.
I wish you all a beautiful year, and thank you for keeping with me on the journey so far.