Recently I have been saturated in simplicity.
You may remember an earlier blog post of mine where I looked at the challenges that the Quaker Testimony of Simplicity posed in my life. Check out: https://annedegruchy.co.uk/2015/12/07/the-challenge-of-simplicity/ if you are interested. As Quakers we are encouraged:
Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?
Quaker Faith & Practice – Advices & Queries 1.02.41
‘How should I act?’ I asked myself in my previous post, as I pondered my ownership of more than my fair share of the earth’s resources.
Of course God listens to us, and, because I try to listen to what God is giving to me, I found my answer. The very next day after my blog post, a Quaker Facebook Friend – someone who I have not met personally – posted a link to the Quaker study centre at Woodbrooke in Birmingham and their Eva Koch Scholarship programme. ‘Could this be for you?’ she asked.
I checked it out: The opportunity to spend six weeks over the summer in the beautiful surroundings of Woodbrooke researching a topic of interest and benefit to Quakers; the chance to be part of the Woodbrooke community and to form a small research community with the other Eva Koch scholars for that year; the possibility of applying to study simplicity in an imaginative way and to share the outcomes with others.
‘Ah but,’ the niggly part of my brain said. What about dad? What about looking for a job? What if you actually get a deal on your new novel and need to go and visit agencies or publishers? What if you are depressed and can’t cope with the work?
‘Listen; be still,’ the better part of me said. And it was clear to me that this was something that I should apply for.
Since then, I have been reading and thinking a lot about simplicity. I have begun to find the connections between spiritual simplicity and the more obvious questions of ownership and stewardship. I have spoken to many people for whom these issues chime and challenge and who are keen to talk to me further. The implications of simplicity spread wide – from the need to pay attention (to be mindful) in everything we do, to the management of time and possessions, to the question of how to reduce the complexities of technology in our lives. Then there are other people to consider – our families and friends who may be affected by our choices. It is not a simple thing I have got myself into!!
And yes, I was successful with my Eva Koch Scholarship application. I feel like God’s hand was there guiding it along the way. My sister assured me that she would be available to dad during the period of the scholarship, and my assigned tutor has been very supportive and understanding that dad’s needs might disrupt my time of study. It is beginning to feel real and I have already conducted some interviews with people. I can see that the time will go very fast.
It is also a time of change for me. A pivotal point in my year between the completion of my third novel and the possibility that I may need to look for paid employment again if I am unsuccessful in placing it.
What better way to refocus than through the eyes of simplicity? As North Carolina Yearly Meeting said in 1983, simplicity ‘…must still be seen as a testimony against involvement with things that tend to dilute our energies and scatter our thoughts, reducing us to lives of triviality and mediocrity.’ (Quaker Faith & Practice 20.27).
Let’s vote for lives of meaning and richness instead.
The Channel Island connections keep on coming! One of the people who kindly volunteered to provide accommodation in London for me during this year’s Yearly Meeting (Quakerly business gathering) was born on Jersey where my father’s family has its roots. My surname is always a giveaway and starts many a conversation.
Attending a special Meeting for Worship to remember conscientious objectors at the Quaker Service Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. Sunshine, the sound of birdsong, rustling trees, and a deep sense of calm.
© Anne de Gruchy