In some ways I approach this blog the way I approach a Quaker meeting. A Quaker meeting is silent unless – and until – somebody speaks: and whilst you might think that describes just about any meeting, let me assure you there is a lot of silence. This is because you are supposed to not only think before you speak, but speak only when you feel led to. It’s not about saying something that’s on your mind, or coming to meeting with some things you want to get off your chest. Speaking during meeting is called ministry, and it is supposed to be something you feel irresistibly led to say: as if it will burst out of you otherwise. This is not a comfortable experience. I have spoken a few times and it feels very much like somebody prodding you in the ribs until you can’t take it any more. You are not in control of this process, it can come upon you quite unawares, and it can be nerve-wracking, even quite scary. So that’s the first thing: speak only when prodded.
You are also supposed to subject your speech to various tests: to ask not only ‘is it true?’ but ‘is it helpful?’ We all know people who make a point of speaking the truth, but whether we find it helpful is another matter. Kindness is another consideration and there is a fourth but I can’t remember exactly where to find it.
Why did I start on this? Oh, yes: because I was thinking about blog posts. I started this blog as a discipline, writing every day whether or not I had something to say – and that was good for me at that time. But now, nearly nine years later (good god, is it nine?) I post only when I have something to say – and days or even a weeks can go by without that happening. But do I subject these posts to the other tests? Do I think about whether it’s kind or truthful or helpful? Or do I think about whether it’s interesting, attention-grabbing or clever?
While I ponder that, I am getting ready to book my place at yearly meeting. This is a national gathering of Quakers, and it will be interesting to find out the answer to my question: with thousands in the same room, will that result in more silence – or more talk?