Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quaker Readings in the Waiting Room of Life

Perhaps I will not keep this post up for very long. It may not be of any great interest to anyone else but since I have not contributed anything at all in some time, I thought I could at least contribute this.

I am between classes. Later this month I will begin to teach again (more's the pity) and I will have less time for frivolity (if you call endless laundry frivolity). I also am not engaged in any writing or in any preparations for conferences or presentations. Truth be told, I'm not at all sure what to do with myself although I'm sure there are a few people on Quaker Quaker blogs and forums who would dearly love to tell me!

It is increasingly clear to me that I am in a period of germination and only hope that I have fallen on good soil. Following a very clear path throughout my life from childhood until my recent completion of my terminal degree (which feels as ominous as that sounds), I find that I no longer truly know what I want to be when I grow up. It reminds me of our dog who was so chagrined when he actually caught the cat and discovered that it had claws.

On the plus side of my own growing meandering pointlessness as a human being, I have been able to spend some time with some readings that would otherwise be left neglected. I pick them up much as someone might in a waiting room. While I exercise, I read the Friends Journal dedicated to marriage and relationships from cover to cover including a good portion of the advertisements (many of which indicated to me that the Friends seriously need to reevaluate what they mean when they speak of simplicity and equality!) When I completed that journal, I brought in my copy of Woolman's Journal and am working through that. Within the same volume following Woolman's Journal is Penn's. Losing weight with weighty Friends! You can keep your yoga.

This week I completed a biography of Lucretia Mott and reviewed some of my earlier notes on her ministry. I began reading the college library's copy of the biography on Martha Coffin Wright and ordered my own copy (something I ought to have done much earlier given the biographers' and their subject's close connections to my own community and research).

Last night and early this morning I made it 100 pages into the Journal of Elias Hicks (who writes, as C.S. Lewis might say, "in the grand style of the Calormenes" and was therefore simultaneously dull beyond belief and hilarious) and then setting that aside, I began reading the letters of Paul and Amicus just predating the Hicksite schism. I'm 145 pages into that volume which infuriates and fascinates in turn. Did you know the darn thing is over 500 pages long?!!! Sheesh.

I launched into Barclay a long time hence but did not make it much past the introduction. Perhaps I am not ready for it. I have also noticed that I have a shelf full of John Fiske's work (1899) including comments on the Friends. Perhaps I'll check that out too now that I've noticed it. Still, I have multiple articles saved from academic journals to my computer that I have yet to read. There is no shortage of material.

There is very little organization in my reading program. In fact, it isn't programmatic at all. I read what I have on hand. I like to reread favorite volumes and intersperse my old favorites with new materials. I'm also reading other things too and will certainly be adding biblical studies, ancient history, feminist theory, art history, and African American history to my piles of books in progress as the semester picks up again. One never knows what marvelous connections will be made by not having a plan. I like to think of it as a process of grafting or hybrid-breeding. Or serendipity.

I do like to know what other people are reading and about what they are thinking so if you have a mind to, let me know. I'm pretty much just lurching and lurking about these days and hunger for connections. A casual comment can ignite a passion. One never knows when that will happen.

So anyway, here I am. Doing my thing, whatever that is. I am not writing. I am not teaching. I am just reading. And waiting.


Daniel Wilcox said...


When do you get all this reading done?! (Besides while exercising)

I thought I did a lot of reading, but now I realize I am a slacker;-)
I don't even have laundry to do. My wife does that, though I wash the dishes for her, mow,etc.

My reading of late:
Quakers in Conflict: The Hicksite Reformation by Larry Ingle (Great historical study)

Introduction to Quakerism by Pink Dandelion (Excellent overview)

John Calvin by Bernard Cottret
(Cottret is a brilliant writer, but the book is depressing, so very...)
John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma
(Good biographies but very depressing)

Christianity: A Brief Introduction by Keith Ward (Another powerful book by the Oxford professor. His books never fail to stimulate my thinking. I think I know a lot and have thought deeply until I read one of his books.)

The First Five Books of Moses (a literal translation) by Robert Alter
(I love finding out about all the word plays in Hebrew that don't come through into most English translations.)

World Without End by Ken Follet (a fascinating historical novel set in the 14th century)

The Cambridge Bible Commentary: Romans by Ernest Best

Moral Minority by Brooke Allen
(on the secular beliefs of the Founding Fathers--rather brief but very good reference material)

Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb's War by T.L. Underwood (an Oxford study of the Quaker-Baptist disagreements of the 17th century, very good if you are an avid historian like me; my wife thinks its funny that while most men are busy watching the Super Bowl, I am busy reading historical tomes for fun; I actually used to be a big sports fan, but realized I only have to so much time.)

And now you have perked my interest to read about women of the nineteeth century..
So many books so little time:-)


Hystery said...

Daniel,aren't books wonderful and addictive? I've discovered Google Books and love all the full texts I find there. I also read lots of garbage. Lots of Star Trek and Agatha Christie. Children's fantasy is still my favorite.

I haven't read many biographies on men. As a child, I decided that I would balance the very white male centered focus of my public school education by only reading books about women and non-white men on my own time. That was the origin of my history teaching self. Someone actually told me that the reason there aren't women in history books is because women haven't done anything worth noting. You can imagine that served as a challenge for me! I started a list and that list grew into an obsession and the obsession grew into a career. It helps that I live in the Mecca of American Women's Rights History. Seneca Falls is just down the road. I also really love religious history (At this point, I lose interest in a woman unless she comments on religion and I lose interest in religion if it doesn't comment on women!)I live in the Burned-Over District so there is also plenty of material for me to read on that front.

If only I could make some money with this obsession. It sure is a good thing that libraries are free.

Hystery said...

Maybe I'll use this space as a means of keeping up with myself in my reading adventures. Sure. Why not?

Now we are in mid-June of 2009 and I'm still reading Paul and Amicus and today finished Woolman and began reading William Penn's Fruits of Solitude. (This is what I read when I exercise) I'm reading The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis to my children and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (which I read when I'm in the car). I'm also reading Battle Lines, a Star Trek Voyager book (I read this while I eat). I'm still reading A Very Dangerous Woman (about Martha Coffin Wright) and the Hicks journal which was so dull that I figured I might as well finish the Paul and Amicus reading before I dive back into it.

Mary Ellen said...

Gosh! Reading your list, I'm feeling very over-the-hill just this moment (after completing dissertation, did my scholar-side wither?). I often read (yes, like you) children's fantasy and (probably not like you) middle-brow weekly mags, the New Yorker, Newsweek - though I've resubscribed this year to Friends Journal. The book I read not too long ago that's stuck with me in helpful ways was _Beyond Belief_ by Elaine Pagels. SO congruent with Quaker understanding, and with my own understanding of early Christianity as a bit of a Babel, or smorgasbord, of beliefs. The old-timey Quake I'd like to read more of is Isaac Pennington - I've just read excerpts.

Hystery said...

Mary Ellen, thanks for commenting. I can't imagine what would make you feel over the hill with my reading list! Did your scholar-side wither? I know mine sure did. I was just talking to my mentor about how I feel like my brains just sort of leaked from my noggin just after I completed my dissertation. If it weren't for teaching these past few months, I'd be a complete dolt by now. All I wanted to do was read Star Trek books and watch television! My mentor (not Rosemary, btw) said the same thing happened to her only she read trashy gossip magazines!

I read my news from online news sources like Truthout or listen to NPR. I also read the local paper, local pointless stuff, but I like to sit there and talk to my 93 year old grandmother about it. Yesterday she and I were in stitches over it.

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