Quaker politics as a game of Tip It

My name’s Jay and I’m a television addict.  I watched a great deal when I was a kid.  Some of it still rattles around in my head.  Not the “programming” so much.  I’m a good student, so I remember the main point of the TV productions.  The marketing.

Perhaps you, too, remember, “Stop!  Now you can pour a beautiful floor.” Or tTip Ithe Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots!

In the 60’s the kid shows advertised a game called Tip It.  Players took turns placing weights on a platform, balanced in the center on a small fulcrum.  Whoever made the platform tip too far lost.  I never owned or even played the game, but, thanks to the TV spots before my eyes, I remember how to play it and how much fun it must be.  And how much I would be missing out by not nagging my parents until they got it for me.

When I sat down in a sparsely attended meeting for worship yesterday, half the attenders were on one side of the room.  The other half (plus one) of us on the other.  A bunch of chairs and empty space were in between.  Then from my rattling head pops out the image of Tip It.

The meeting room in Corvallis is hexagonal.  The ceiling beams come to a point above the middle of the room.  Above there’s a windowed cupola which sheds light on us sitting below it.  I wondered if we were balanced on a point in the middle of the floor, or hung from the top of the cupola, which way would the whole thing swing?

Another youthful interest of mine was politics.  I liked watching the state legislatorsOur meeting house move, shake, play games and, sometimes, make laws.  I still like it.  I tend to reserve my own participation to the times I can make the most difference with a moderate effort, so I’m often just watching.

Some of my practical interest in this game playing finds expression with my church.  I’m not proud of being good at Quaker politics, but I do OK with it.  I know how committees can work–or fail to.  I have an inkling of how to time my comments in meetings to have the most impact.  I can choose to exercise that craft with the leading of the Light.  On occasion I find in retrospect that I’ve worked with too little guidance and some clever and subtle craft of good order.

I’m aware that having political skill and knowledge of good order can be quite useful.  At their best, these tools help meetings and committees make faithful discernments of what to do and why.  I’m thankful to be used by the Guide to facilitate some of those.  But it would be pretending to say that I was beyond temptation.  My name’s Jay and I’m a political junkie.

Yesterday morning, my image of the balance in our meeting room quickly became a bemused speculation on the weight of the Friends involved and who might prevail were the two sides to embroil ourselves in some controversy.  Would the age of John be compensated by the long standing membership of the younger Judy?  How could we factor in Sarah’s service to another meeting as clerk prior to joining our meeting?  Did those sitting on back benches gain leverage in meeting discernments, as they would in the child’s game?

It’s yearly meeting time here in the Northwest.  I leave tomorrow for North Pacific YM, held in Missoula, Montana.  (Pray for us as we travel, recreate and deliberate, won’t you?)  Sometimes I notice myself girding my loins (What the heck does that mean, anyway?) for Quaker battle.

So it was a blessing to find myself reflecting on a whimsical image rather than the too self-important issues surrounding Quaker faith, practice and inspiration.

2 thoughts on “Quaker politics as a game of Tip It

  1. Great annual session…tip it, indeed.

    Girding one’s loins refers to tucking in that which might either present a vulnerability to an enemy or that which get, shall we say, caught up in the machinery.

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