Friday, September 18, 2009

On "An Invitation to be Heard": Tuning into the Truth of Poetry. Story. Experience.

What does it mean to share stories? To read them aloud to one another? To record them, write them down in the first place? What does it mean to speak a personal narrative into the air? Why do people share tales? What experiences inspire reflection and acts of private and public disclosure? Love, heartache, loss, betrayal, birth, death, faith, miracles, desire? What happens when we share our tales, and really hear ourselves and one another speak?

In the coming weeks, I will have the privilege of helping facilitate "Listening Sessions" at the Church of St. Philip in North Minneapolis. As part of our Social Justice committee work, we have discerned a call to hold two evening sessions inviting people who have left the church to return and share their stories. We are creating space for former parishioners to gather and reflect. We are asking those who choose to come to respond to three simple questions:
  • What called you to the St. Philip Community initially?
  • Where are you now and what do you like about it?
  • What would you like to share with us about the circumstances that have caused you to change churches or stay away?
As I prepare for these evenings, I'm tuning my heart, mind, spirit to these questions. I'm meditating on this action of being deeply attentive, validating, and acknowledging of all that I hear. I'm listening to my own inner voice, and how I react to circumstances and people throughout the day. I'm practicing the hard work it is to defer judgment, and simply receive information. I'm reading poetry.

Our goal in having these sessions is to do the work of story-telling: of truth-telling, sharing, hearing, acknowledging, and reconciling. Our goal is to tune in, not unlike the poet, to the heart of matters, to details, to the Divine at work and in our midst. As I ready myself, I'm re-reading poems. I'm struck time and again by Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Stafford. Today, I tune to an old favorite by William Stafford, and realize that his poem holds lessons around why I am called to do any of this work of listening, sharing stories, responding. I invite each and everyone of you into this poem - into reading it as an act of prayer and meditation. And I ask that you please keep these "Listening Sessions" in your heart.

Thank you.
Happy Contemplating!


A Ritual to Read to Each Other
by William Stafford (1960)

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park.
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give --yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

1 comment:

vanbillings said...


I read with great interest about your grandmother Borgmann. In a post she wrote a story called "I Remember Friend's Place" which she said was to help her children and grandchildren understand her Dutch Heritage. In one of the stories, when she was very young, she mentioned playing with her cousin, Van Dyke Billings, who is my father. He is a cousin of your Grandmother. As is, I believe, Vivian Cronk McCandlish, who is 96 and lives in NY.

Please let me know if you read this.