People sometimes think they want a religion—or, rather, a spirituality—with no given content. For some Quakers it can seem more important to avoid offending those who don’t believe in this or that than it is to hold onto the content of the Life and Power about which early Friends spoke and through the virtue of which they lived and challenged the injustices of their day.
At the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Australia, I saw an exhibit by a Cuban artist called The White Library. Visiting it, one goes into a rather large room with books on shelves and ready for reading on a table. But the books have no words, no color, no images. Each book is only stark white emptiness.
The open books look as if they have pages, but they may not. It is clear that nothing in the room has visible content. While everything is white and clean, the room is eerily disconcerting and unwelcoming.
It feels as if something important had been removed, repressed, or wiped out. It makes me wonder what the content is that is missing. I wonder in what ways we might be allowing or creating white libraries–losing touch with our roots, whitewashing our story, or choosing blandness over richness that might be challenging.
What would it be like if we didn’t have and use Quaker writings (John Woolman, Thomas Kelly, Caroline Stephenson, Pendle Hill pamphlets), the Bible, other Christian writings?
What about your faith have you dismissed or written off?
Settle into silence and listen. Where are you barren and empty? What have you whitewashed or ignored? What needs to happen?
For further reflection:
“You are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside . . .” (See Matthew 23:27-28).
“Recite [these words] to your children and talk about them . . .” (See the shema, Deuteronomy 6: 4-9.)