Quaker Universalist Conversations


Uniting the world

Friends have a healthy wariness of calendars, and particularly of names or ceremonies assigned to particular days in a calendar.

Human beings by nature ascribe meaning—sometimes sacred meaning—to patterns of events and objects. Such naming is of biological value: it makes possible consciousness, language and collaborative planning.

Quaker wariness of naming arises from the awareness that human beings are finite and fallible. Ascribing meaning to things outside of us has a great potential to distract us from what is Real, especially since we often ascribe not only meaning but also moral value.

Friends deliberately reduce calendars to their proper role as arbitrarily determined time-counting systems. This avoids the risk of letting humanly named events or seasons or calendar cycles have an artificial meaning, one which comes from our concepts and our cultures rather than from Truth.

Winter Solstice at Newgrange

Nonetheless, the real, physical calendar of the seasons is inscribed in our bodies, as it is in everything on this planet. This means that today’s solstice, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest in the Southern, does have a sort of universal sacredness.

It reminds us, in our viscera, that we are all of the same world, the same cosmos, passing through the same orbits of life together.

Let us observe this unity in the silence.



Cycles and the rhythms of nature are meaningful to me, particularly cycles of creation, growing, dying and rebirth. At this time of year, light coming out of darkness evokes Fox’s ocean of light and ocean of darkness image. In my experience, images and words are powerful, and also limited. I appreciate your closing with returning to the silence for unity and the source of our consciousness.
Thanks, Gail. I spent several decades during which I framed experience in terms of the Pagan calendar of moons, solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter sabbats (the mid-points between solstices and equinoxes). I did this because I felt a need to distance myself from both the Christian calendar and other human-made calendars, and to mark time solely by those astronomical events. Granted, I was looking into the traditional Pagan meanings ascribed to those events. Yet I was also simply observing. That observation allowed me to notice the biological cycles which tend to be obscured by our “civilized” calendars and lifestyles. For example, all the family “psychodrama” and the feasting and the celebration of light and the tendency to sleep in which surround the winter solstice I gradually came to recognize as reactions to a simple mammalian brainstem directive: put on a layer of fat and hibernate until spring. *grin* I’m far less prone to winter/holiday depression than I used to be, because I allow my mammalian body to do what the shortening days signal that it should be doing. Silliness aside, I do earnestly believe that when we allow ourselves to honor our animal natures—all the while exercising the human awareness which transcends violent instincts—we are more successful at escorting each other through the seasons. Blessings, Mike
Add a Comment