GNL number 70

a report of doings at meeting #70, Sunday, March 10, 2013
including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


Nature almost surely operates by combining chance with necessity,
randomness with determinism….The two go hand in hand
like a dance….To be sure, it is from this interchange
that novelty and creativity arise in Nature.
—Eric Chaisson, Harvard astrophysicist and author of
Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos


Sue set the stage for this discussion of Necessities/Chance by again serving as digger into word roots and meanings; which caused her to look closer at the connection between chance and change, and at chance as risk. This prompted her to recall times she’d taken a chance, and the results, sometimes good, sometimes painful, but usually instructive, and change-making. And hence opened a rich conversation about taking risks in life. Sue also read several quotes on chance, Carl Sandburg’s poem and circles, and a poem of her own, for which see AFTERWORDS.

Our hostess, Ellen, had good reason to speak of chance as risk; she saw that her recent habit of house-sitting—a job she’d invented—was started on chance-taking, and has been a series of adventures. And she cited one experience, her choice to go to France for a house-farm sit, which brought some surprises, but overall was a positive experience, and a good chance taken. Speaking of decision-making in general, she also noted how commonly we neglect to heed our gut feelings. And on necessity, Ellen was not alone in loving laughter.

Nancy read some quotes that she said underlined two kinds of necessity that mean a lot to her: the need for wilderness and even outdoorness, and to remember, as Eugene Debs said, that there are so many people without the barest necessities. She also read an excerpt from a note about last meeting by our friend Donna V, on silence as a necessity. And N spoke of her need to consult and hear not just reasoning but gut or intuition or Life as well, in making choices and taking risks. For her quotes, see AW.

Donna was not the only one who valued her quiet alone time; Ann spoke of solitude as one of her major necessities—that she had never had the need to be in constant company, but needed some time away to do her own thing. She noted that in her “long view” of her family history, she could see that she and Elliott, with their parents gone, and having no children, just their elderly friend Gertie to watch over, have been given more freedom of choice to do what their hearts tell them to do.

Responding to the exchange about chance, Anna recalled the way she had taken such big risks doing her crazy, cross-country travels many years ago, long before Al-Anon helped her grow out of self-doubt. (And we suggested that she surely took such chances more on the advice of her body wisdom than on the voice of self-doubt.) She also said she’d left behind several vocations/avocations more on chance than reason. And with a smile, she noted COS is such a safe place to bring ideas, you can always take a chance here.

We chose today to send our offering to a program that many of us consider a longtime favorite force for peace, the American Friends Service Committee.


Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.
—Henry David Thoreau


Sunday, April 14, 2013 (1030), at Louise’s if possible. (If not, you’ll get a message the week before.) The topic, in tune with the season, will be REBIRTH.


from Sue:

To take a chance, means being open to change, to opening myself up to the possibility of letting something die in my life so something else can be born, to willingness to take chances
Chance–Indo-European root-kad-. To fall. CADAVER, CADENCE, CADENT, CADUCOUS, CASCADE, CASE1, CHANCE, CHUTE; ACCIDENT, DECAY, DECIDUOUS, ESCHEAT, INCIDENT, OCCASION, RECIDIVISM, from Latin cadere, to fall, die. [Pokorny 1. kad- 516.]


  • “It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It is the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It is the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give. And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.” ~~~Bette Midler, “The Rose,”
  • “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”~~~Soren Kierkegaard
  • “To eat an egg, you must break the shell.”~~~Jamaican Proverb
  • “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.”~~~Anonymous
  • “Do one thing every day that scares you.”~~~Eleanor Roosevelt

“At Monhegan Lake”
by Susan Fantl Spivack

I walk the path along the shore
golden pine needles underfoot
sprue, fir, larch, pine boughs over
head sheltering me from drizzled rain
Droplets pock the lake’s shining
surface, fallen birch and aspen
gold, maple red and orange-the leafy
scatter on the path and forest floor
nestled among fern feathery leaves
low bushes, the turtle back humps
of granite stones
As I walk I pray the Amidah, each word
a tool to unlatch the gate so my eyes
and ears can open and I can see
how I am following the creator’s path
through endless changeunfolding
according to the sacred
laws of chance

Carl Sandburg’s poem on circles from “The People, Yes”

The white man drew a small circle in the sand
and told the red man, “This is what the Indian
knows,” and drawing a big circle around the
small one, “This is what the white man knows.”
The Indian took the stick and swept an immense
ring around both circles: “This is where the
white man and the red man know nothing.”
(The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1970.)

Documentary movie about two governesses–“Martha and Ethel”

from Nancy:

on Necessities

  • Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.
    —Sigurd F Olson, environmentalist and writer
  • Now, my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself, but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle, the ethic of the wild beast—-Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow men. Thousands!
  • —Eugene V. Debs, labor organizer, several times Socialist Party candidate for US President
    and from a letter responding to our previous meeting notes, by our friend Donna Veeder in Little Falls, NY:

    “…I lived so many years on the farm, alone all day from early am to evening, I loved it. I loved to open the windows and listen to the grass whisssh with wind, or the rain fall, or the cars go by, at the rate of two a day. So maybe that kind of silence is a necessity for me…”

and on Chance

All is chance—if you call by that name an order that you don’t understand.
—Bernard de Fontanelle, scientist and man of letters, 1657-1757


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