Archives for the month of: September, 2012

A personal experience of the half hour Quaker meeting for worship at “Present,” a shopfront near Leytonstone tube station, held on 11th Sept 2012.

About 10 min in to this Meeting for Worship I began to have the feeling that this was a really good meeting.  I felt peaceful, but waiting; sort of in touch, “gathered” as we call it.  In touch with what?  I call it God.

Then a Friend spoke about forgiveness – he’d just been to the F word exhibition in West London.  There were stories there of people forgiving other people the most awful acts.  He thought maybe if we could all forgive each other more our lives would be better.

Then a bit later one of the guests became rather restless and used the other F word.  Later he said ”waiting…waiting.”  That word certainly spoke powerfully to me.  I was sitting there thinking over and over:  “keep a green bough in your heart and the singing bird will come.”  This was a phrase which I have up on my wall at home – a friend wrote it for me in beautiful handwriting, and decorated it with pictures of flowers, about 30 years ago.  It has been up on my wall ever since.  I usually walk past it without noticing it, but for some reason I had noticed it this morning.  And now I sat with it: “keep a green bough in your heart and the singing bird will come.”  It felt to me that we were waiting on God, and God was around; I mean I think God is always around, it’s just I’m not always aware.  God is present.  And when I am more present then I know God is present, I can feel it.  And I could feel it here, presence.

My work for the ‘Present’ project was eating a lunch with Frances in her space.

I set up lunch, which was a can of tuna, a can of corn, a can of tinned fruit, salted peanuts, some bread and water. I didn’t supply plates or cutlery, but I told Frances we could use anything that was available in the space. We used two sheets of paper as plates. As we were eating, I told her about my memories and experiences as a solider in the Israeli army.

In 1990, as required by all eighteen year old Jewish Israeli citizens, I was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.

I volunteered to become an infantry soldier and served for the obligatory three years.

Once I was discharged from compulsory service, I continued to serve in the military reserves.

During my service in the infantry unit, I participated in military action in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The duration of a mission during military action was often undefined.  Therefore to prepare for a mission, the armored personnel carrier (APC) was loaded with all the necessary equipment and military hardware needed as well as enough food and drink to last until the next time supplies were replenished.

We would mobilize as instructed in our APC through various populated areas. We were instructed not lo leave the APC under any circumstances, due to threats of sniper activity and landmines.

However, when night fell or if there was no precise mission to accomplish, we would enter one of the local houses in the area.

If there were people in the house, we would gather them all into one room and one of the soldiers would guard the room.

We split our unit into two groups. One group guarded the surrounding perimeter and the other group was free to eat and rest. Then after a given time the groups would switch.

The combat food rations came in small cardboard boxes. The contents of which were intended to feed four soldiers for up to twenty four hours. Each box contained a can of tinned corn, can of tuna and can of chickpeas, as well as Halva, salted peanuts and chocolate spread. Usually the rations included bread, but if a mission continued we would run out of the bread.

We would sit somewhere in the house in a place that was carefully considered safe and also comfortable to eat in. During the meal we would pass the cans around from person to person.

At the end of the meal, looking around at the arrangement of the empty cans left on the floor, you could imagine where each soldier had sat to eat. You could see where a soldier sat alone, where two soldiers sat together and where three soldiers sat to eat.

We didn’t always have the strength or motivation to clean up the remnants of food and cans after ourselves, sometimes we would simply fall asleep. On occasion we would be ordered to urgently continue of our mission before we managed to tidy up. In both cases all the cans were left in the same place and arrangement in which we, the soldiers had sat to eat in.

When the family came out of the secured room, or when they returned to their home once the mission was completed, they would find the cans and remnants of food as we had left them, as “our presence” in their home.

I suggested to Frances that she could leave the remnants of our meal where they were, as evidence of “our presence” in her space.

by Michelle Letowska

7.30am. There was music and I danced. The invitation was there on a blackboard outside and people joined me. Some glanced in passing, some stopped and stared, many smiled, some didn’t seem to notice. Some danced too.

It was easy. Turn on the music and started dancing. No nerves, shame, embarrassment. That was good. Small children seemed to understand, smiling, dragging big people back, joining in.

Had I been there all day?, asked a pregnant mum wearing a baby on board badge and bringing her daughter in. They’d seen me in the morning on the way to school and had a boogie on the street an the girl had wanted to come in. What was I doing it for? Just for fun I said. They had a dance.

Perhaps art (that which is intended as art) in a shop with big windows next to a busy underground station during rush hours can’t not be a performance or exhibition-ism.

Perhaps it’s only a performance because we have a strong idea of where and when we are supposed to or allowed to dance. To move our bodies in response to music, a beat, in any way we like, unselfconsciously. Remove the alcohol, the entry ticket, the darkness and questions appear. Why are you dancing? What for?

What does it look like? I don’t know.

What does it feel like? Try it and see.