The QUF has received copies of a pamphlet written by David Cadman, a British Quaker who is associated with the Quaker Universalist Group in England. In his work the author addresses the desperate economic, environmental, and political situations the world faces in the 21st century and advocates a total transformation in our “Way of Being.” Instead of reviewing it, we give below a few excerpts that convey its flavor and message. To purchase it, as well as to learn more about David Cadman and his other writings, go to www.davidcadman. net.
Our present Western (and increasingly Eastern) model of economy is based upon the common presumption that the greatest good for the greatest many comes from a form of economy in which we are encouraged evermore to increase our consumption of goods and services. This self-concern is supposed to cause a “trickle down” of wealth so that the poorest benefit as much as the rich – a win for everybody. To achieve this, our economy is dependent upon, addicted to, “growth”. But, although this addiction continues, and is espoused by politicians of all kinds, the truth is, the model is not only deeply flawed but leads us, and others, into greater and greater distress.
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Facing up to this problem is not easy, since the root perception upon which it is based is deeply embedded in modern conventions; those that speak with the voice of convention seldom have to justify their opinion – they assume it is taken for granted. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, convention tells us this kind of growth, what I want to call “old growth”, is the answer to all our woes, not their cause; that by some sort of magic, the greatest good for us all will come about from our individual selfishness – our relentless quest to have more. Accepting that for the goodness of the whole we have to live within limits, just does not fit this old model. For this acceptance to arise in us, a radical change of heart and mind is required. A transformation of the language of economy is needed.
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Beneath a calm surface, there has always been in our Society of Friends a fervent questing for truth and direction. And although the underlying structure of our meetings for worship and our business meetings continue to follow simple and traditional principles of silence and inclusion, British Quakers have never been locked into rigid forms of practise. There has always been plenty of discussion of, and disagreement about, social and political issues. There has been, too, a richness of work beyond the Meeting House. If, in my lifetime, peace testimony and a marked concern for global poverty have been especially strong, there have also been many other matters that have engaged the attention and effort of Friends. Most recently, this has meant a great concern for sustainability and climate change, for living within our means and within the limits of Nature – for our sakes and for the sake of all who live or may come to live on planet Earth.
There has also been discussion about what it means to be a Quaker, or what it means to “be Quaker”. If this raises questions about having and being, it also raises questions about the place of theology and action in our testimony. For some of us, perhaps all of us, theology and action cannot be considered apart. Both are part of “being Quaker” and there is a danger in supposing otherwise – a separation of principle and action, of means and ends, which can sometimes lead us astray. True action is founded on true contemplation and prayer. Theology has no meaning other than in respect to the work of life, however it might be defined.
David Cadman then goes on to describe two theological sources that he has found especially meaningful. They are The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the writings of the 13th century monk, Thomas Acquinas. His discussion of these form the core of the pamphlet, as Cadman contrasts them with the reductive, competitive worldview that emerged from the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Friends may (and will) form their own opinions about these sources, Cadman himself concludes that:
We must learn to dwell in thought in such a way that we are ever mindful of an essential interconnectedness. Above all else, the problems we face show a need for an understanding of “relatedness”, the ways in which the economic, the social and the environmental are, in the words of Mary’s gospel, “interwoven and united” with each other. In doing this, the structure and character of Aquinas’s Natural Law helps us to see that above all else we act most truly when we act for the goodness of the whole – the economy as a whole, the community as a whole; an ecosystem as a whole.
Perhaps, we can make this a special part of the way in which we contribute to the debate about these matters and the ways in which programmes of action are arrived at – “holding spaces” for listening not only to what others have to say but what can be heard of the divine voice. Perhaps, because of our naturally contemplative way of being and our love of stillness and silence, we can make it our special task to understand and hold this whole-some-ness (or, as I would call it, holiness) and offer a particular and evident place for it to be expressed in prayerful community. Our record on peace and social concern stands as a strong foundation. Now we need to bring such concerns within the wider ambit of what we have come to know as “sustainability” – the eternal goodness of the whole. There will be many others who are at the same place and we can share this work with them.
I am a Quaker who loves the teachings of the Buddha.
By discipline, I was a an economist – of sorts – and, over the past twenty-five or so years, helped to create two consultancies that studied and forecast property markets, originally in terms of market performance and then in the light of sustainability and climate change. Alongside this work, I have had professorial chairs at the University of Reading and University College London (UCL) and a Fellowship at Wolfson College, Cambridge, where I worked with the Department of Land Economy. However, I would not really call myself an academic – just someone who has asked a lot of questions!
More recently, I have begun a quest to restore the word “holy” to our everyday lives – not least in the matters of love and peace, and have sought to find a way of being that brings us to participate in divine purpose. This has led to a number of publications the most recent of which are Holiness in the Everyday published by Quaker Books, A Way of Being, published by ZIG Publishing and Limits to Growth, published by Quaker Voices.
Extracts from my work can be found by clicking here
Work in progress can be found by clicking here.