The Q-Horn: An Aid To Speaking Passionately Without Frightening One Another Too Much?

At our last Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business I introduced the “Q-horn.”
I suggested how it might be used. After some uncertainty, people began trying it out, using it in the spirit I had suggested, and then expanding and improving on my suggestions.

What people seem to have taken the Q-horn to signify:

“I believe I am standing in the Quaker tradition when I hold this horn and say…”
“I feel the Quaker tradition as I understand it, flowing through me as I speak.”

Language is crucial here, for us to work together. Also crucial is remembering the Quaker truth that words –language– can never actually BE the truth; words can only signify a desired direction for awareness to travel in.
Where I’m coming from as I introduce the Q-horn is what I have learned from Process Work and World Work.

(These links to Process Work, and its offspring, World Work, will get you started, but if you feel more than passing interest we should talk –Process Work is not linear and it’s not simple.)

Process Work would say that our Meeting for Worship with attention to Business is a microcosm of TCFM. In both there are many voices, many points of view, spoken and unspoken. And we are a group of passionate people, survivors of long journeys, often challenging ones. We have many stories to tell, truths we have learned.

Anne Supplee and I believe that, as a Meeting community, we are somehow hampered in our work. We clerks want to help TCFM loosen up, be freer with each other. For my part, I want to encourage us to express our passion, our deep truths. However, when you get down to the level of spiritual truths in a person, it’s a tricky area. Our passionately-held truths are guides to our lives; very important to each of us. It’s hard to talk about them “dispassionately.” But, in our culture, many of our experiences of listening to passionate spiritual/religious speech are profoundly off-putting. I would like to encourage the TCFM MWB community to practice passionate speech –telling our Truths– in ways that don’t frighten our community members.
I propose starting with our passion about what we each have found in the Quaker tradition that helps us live our lives. And the Q-horn is a humorous way to signify “wake up, here I come!” Several people were ready to take up the horn at our July 13 meeting. They spoke heart-felt words, but with the horn in their hands I think none of their listeners felt “shoulded” or guilt-tripped.
This is exactly what I want, and I’m writing about it now because I want to share and spread this wonderful development.
There’s another horn on the Clerks’ table too, a squeaky parrot. When I was deciding use a horn as a humorous indication of strongly-held statements, I knew that if things went well I would need at least two horns. Because, Friends, we WILL disagree. That’s fine. We need that. It is when we combine our individual truths,

  • when we state them as individuals…
  • and then work them back and forth and up and down together,
  • sometimes holding them in worship…

It is when several individual truths are thus lovingly examined, for points of misunderstanding and for points of genuine difference, that we begin to move toward a collective wisdom and the possibility of inspired collective action in the world.

So my “high dream” about how we might someday use these silly horns is that in a difficult discussion a few people would be honking the Q-horn and some others the parrot-horn. In that discussion the parrot would come to stand for another point of view. People could passionately speak their positions, from the Q-camp or the parrot-camp, we would be hearing people’s deeply-held truths. At the same time, with the squeaking and honking, we would be reminding ourselves not to take ourselves too seriously. We are all part of a mystery larger than any of us can comprehend on our own.
The horns are a gimmick. They are not intended to be taken seriously, and I imagine that, after a while, their use will pass. However, what they stand for is one of MY (honk, honk) deeply-held truths: part of Love is passion. If we do not share with each other out of our hearts’ wellsprings, we limit the expression of our Love, for our community and for its future.

3 Responses to The Q-Horn: An Aid To Speaking Passionately Without Frightening One Another Too Much?

  1. Patricia Elliott July 16, 2008 at 11:44 pm #

    I am surprised that a meeting comprised of people that gather to share spiritual feelings and truths, find it necessary to be prompted…not by the Spirit, but by the honking of a horn to express their innermost feelings.

    Do I misunderstand your message?

    Isn’t this introducing the use of ‘directives’ instead of spontaneous offerings as the Spirit guides?

    I think you are referring to use of the horn in business meetings, however, the Friends way is to allow the Spirit’s guidance in all matters, in all meetings.

    Hmmmm. Maybe a bumper sticker could say:

    “Honk if it’s You, Lord” (Whoops!)

  2. James Riemermann July 28, 2008 at 7:33 am #


    Having been at the meeting where the horn was introduced, I have some difficulties with it–not its goofiness, which I rather appreciate, but the artificiality of it, at least for me. A honking horn is not my natural timbre, nor that of many people. That said, in general I appreciate the effort to give people a way to call attention to something they see as important, and at the same time to undercut the pomposity and presumption inherent in prefacing one’s words with “this is important.”

    But I have to ask, Patricia, if spirit can inspire words, music, dancing, gardening, friendship, painting, why can’t it inspire the honking of a horn? What are the other things in life that humans can do, which are immune to spirit? I’m personally inclined to think there are none.

  3. Rachel November 12, 2008 at 1:45 am #

    I do hope it’s OK to comment here, despite not being a member of your community?

    I’ve been looking for resources for encouraging non-aggressive modes of communication (and specifically, communication of disagreement), and stumbled over this post.

    I fully agree with the point that a horn (or a talking stick, or similar item) is a valuable aid to communication in group meetings of any sort. I’m curious to know if the use of the Q-horn has continued in your meetings?

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