A Pre-K to Grade 12 Independent Quaker Day School Serving the Greater Durham-Chapel Hill Area

Reflections From Our Head of School

Allowing the Truth to Be Revealed

For me, allowing the right path to show itself consistently and well takes a great deal of patience and practice. It means that I have to remember that my first thoughts may not be my best thoughts; that my experiences and process may lead me in a very different direction than others; and that the way I see the world can either limit or expand my capacity to be open. The collective truth of who we are as a people, a nation, and a school is impacted by what we allow ourselves to incorporate into our thinking, our worldview. It takes time and effort to seek and find that which represents our best version of our collective truth and the more unwilling I am to see the perspective of others, the less truth I will find.

For many of us, the watching of weather forecasts last week became a full-time job.  What were the experts saying about the path of Hurricane Florence? What was the wind speed, the direction of movement, the amount of rainfall expected? How much impact would our area feel? For someone responsible for making school decisions based on the weather, it was confounding that the answers kept changing as the storm itself kept morphing and moving. I would have loved absolute certainty each morning when we decision-makers had to communicate our plans, but each time, the truth was unknowable.

At first I found this maddening and anxiety producing. I needed to move past my need for certainty into a space of relying on collective understanding, a desire and expectation that I and my colleagues were making our best effort. In trusting that the right outcome would reveal itself, I found peace. As challenging as this is in an era where increasingly we believe and expect absolute clarity and certainty, sometimes we just have to acknowledge that forethought, preparation, resiliency, and a collective openness to considering all available options are all we have. My life, situations, and the world will always be unknowable at some level, and I have to accept that unfathomability. Absolutes may not exist. 

There are many ways in which this idea is foundational in Quakerism. One is the lack of belief in a single, absolute, sacred text. For Quakers, the bible has much to offer when understanding God and the divine — so do the Qur’an, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pali Canon, and other spiritual writings. Quakers believe that God continues to speak to us today through continuing revelation and that we can find divine inspiration in many places. The Truth (the divine, the Light, God) is continually revealed, so no one text or unchanging way of thought can sufficiently embrace or explain all that there is to know. (For more on Quakers and sacred texts.)

As a Friends school, we continually seek to teach our children and ourselves to understand the dangers of absolutism and close-mindedness. We encourage each other to ask questions and explore. We push ourselves to approach things that challenge us with a growth mindset – a willingness to actively engage in and learn from persevering. We remind ourselves that truth seeking takes effort and that our individual sense of truth can and should change as we gain deeper awareness and understanding. I will continue to be among those learning and relearning this lesson every day (with a little more time spent in reflection on those pesky weather days.)

In Peace,

Karen Cumberbatch

Karen Cumberbatch

Head of School