Letters - 24 June 2022

From The Zooming question to Reparations

The Zooming question

Recently, through the magic of Zoom, I was able to attend a family funeral held hundreds of miles away. Well, in a sense I was present…

Our small Meeting has been split in two by this new technology. I myself am a Meeting house Friend. We gather together there to endeavour, and sometimes succeed, in drawing to us that ‘presence in the midst’ which releases us from our ever-demanding egos into ‘the one-ness and loving unity’ of God’s love, to quote Peter Leeming in the Friend of 29 April. A unity that spreads way beyond me to embrace all humanity. The Meeting’s Zooming Friends meet earlier on the Sunday morning, when, I understand, they experience what one of them has described as a ‘clarifying and a refreshing strengthening of the inner core of my being’.

I have indeed experienced personal wonders in the inward world of silent meditation, and can gratefully describe these experiences as ‘holy’, but for me there seems to be too much of the inward about this practice for it to be included under the umbrella phrase of ‘Quaker worship’. How far can the reach of such Zooming Friends extend, I wonder. Sitting in the comfort of my home, mobile phone on my knees, should I connect with ten Friends? With a hundred? A thousand? Is there a natural limit to this exercise? 

Is this truly to be the way forward for us all, freeing us of the costly burden of our Meeting houses? How then are Friends to be recognised? 

Chris Hall


Reading Elizabeth Coleman’s article ‘Out of Order’ (29 April), in which she speaks of MPs acting ‘because of obedience’, I am reminded of the work of Nick Duffell and Joy Shaverian into the effects of boarding school on adults. Both show the psychological impact of being sent away from family, those broken attachments which stay with us forever, hidden until they may suddenly burst out later in life.

In Nick’s book Wounded Leaders: British elitism and the entitlement illusion – a psychohistory, he writes that being educated away from families in institutions ‘has a direct effect on their ability to love, to relate, to make good judgments and to develop the necessary leadership qualities for today’s world’.

Joy’s book Boarding School Syndrome: Broken attachments a hidden trauma describes ‘common symptoms suffered by those affected by early boarding and the enduring psychological effects of this trauma’.

Is this the ‘obedience’ that Elizabeth writes about, I wonder? The enduring and unconscious response to having to get it right for fear of punishment ‘because they fear for their careers’?

I know that fear. In 2011 at the age of sixty-three I finally woke up to the effects of being sent away at five for those twelve school years when I had to do exactly what I was told, without any familial love, no real attachment. I wrote hundreds of lines in punishment for something minor, I wasn’t encouraged to be strong, to think for myself, I couldn’t cry aloud, I failed my Art O level. I still miss my dog. It stays with you. And at seventy-three I still search to find and hear my own voice, to break out of that black box of ‘obedience’.

Elizabeth says that peers in the House of Lords can vote as they choose. I imagine many will have similar backgrounds and boarding school experiences. So what’s different? Is this call to ‘obedience’ in the House of Commons the fear of punishment and shame, a fear of some inner failure?

Nick calls it our ‘strategic survival personality’. Joy speaks of ‘hidden trauma’. We had to survive in that wilderness and we will have carried those behavioural patterns into and throughout our adult lives. Government ministers too. Boarding school may not have been all bad, but the strategies we created in order to survive stay with us and affect each and everyone we meet. And, I imagine, the laws our ministers make and vote on. It remains deep in our unconscious until one day we wake up to mend and open our hearts once again.

If you want to learn more, there is lots of information on the Boarding School Survivor Support charity’s website. https://www.bss-support.org.uk.

Carole Inman

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