Journey to the End
IN JULY 2009, I had things pretty well figured out. I had, after six years of on-and-off study, achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. I had been hired into a new-graduate program, an increasingly rare opportunity in the post-financial-crisis economy, at a nearby hospital. I was elated.
In August 2010, I suffered a back injury. While much of my identity was involved in becoming and being a nurse, I had already become disillusioned with the hospital and the US health care system in general. Now, unable to work, I had a lot of time to think about things. Why did everything seem so out of balance?
After much learning, I understood that our modern world is built on a foundation of petrochemicals, infinite growth, and profligate consumption. Petroleum, natural gas, coal, and their derivatives are the underpinnings of all the technology enabling us to live as we do. Unfortunately, what nature took millions of years to create, humanity has exhausted in a couple hundred. We are already feeling the inter-related shocks to the environment, the energy supply, and the economy built atop them. The shocks will only grow worse with time. After realizing this, I felt quite alone. I craved allies, a community of people who were considering these issues. This is how I became a Quaker.
In 2012, I attended my first meeting and knew I was home. Since then, I have explored these ideas through further study and action, seeking a transition away from this destruction and toward the future. For me, the solution lies in radical acceptance of the Quaker testimonies, taking them to their utmost, and living an integrated life.
In this case, simplicity is my primary value. It will rightly guide all other action. I want to learn how to enjoy life with less than I have now, which is so much more than I need. Community is vital to this: not only sharing resources with others, but finding the joy of camaraderie and inter-relationship. To have community, we must have peace and equality, where every person is valued for their gifts and conflicts are approached with love.
My experiments in living these values have taken me to various communities, from nascent to iconic, in Mexico, California, the Pacific Northwest, and along the eastern seaboard. All of these are their own experiments, some more intentional than others, in equality, sharing, and interdependence. I have learned some of the skills and resilience that I have sought: to grow food, to care for animals, to find satisfaction in the practical work of living, and to savor the company of others who value this type of life as I do.
I strive for the will and inner peace that allow my growth in the Spirit and the holding of all the present and future turmoil I perceive. Cultivating these has been a slow and often arduous process for me, but these few years of practice, however fitful and inconsistent, have shown progress.
I have taken only the first small steps of a very long journey. The next step, if all goes according to plan, is a larger experiment: moving to a small community and becoming a farmhand for a season. I hope I will find more friends who will walk this path with me, for though it is difficult, I believe it is the only path to our salvation. My hope is that I can learn to simplify, share, love, and appreciate, and in so doing, help to build strongly bonded, interdependent communities with the skills and resilience to weather the coming storms, as they will be such as history has never seen. Only with profoundly deep action, both internal and external, will we prevail.
J.T. is an attender at Orange Grove Friends Meeting and the co-clerk of Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Young Adult Friends.