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A Ritual to Read to Each Other

Whenever I read this William Stafford poem, I wonder about all the imagery he provided. For me, it begins with the title, the word ritual, and flows from there. What do we mean by ritual? Is it a taken-for-granted way and habits we just in living? Do we end up stereotyping people by saying things like they are that kind of person? When we stereotype, we live in patterned ways that can end up being unbroken and we miss our star.

When we just follow the crowd, as in a parade and hold the elephant’s tail in front of us, we accept the world without being able to see it. That elephant’s butt blocks my view. What comes my way from that view?

But, there is hope. We can talk to each other and listen to each other’s stories. When we do and are present to the other, we shed a light on the path we share with one another. Roland Barth wrote a rule for living and sailing was that, regardless of how many times we hear a story, hear it one more time. It is important to the other and we may learn something new in each hearing.

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.

 

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A Ritual to Read to Each Other

People quite often have views of the world and people that are fixed. We become observers and outsiders separate from the life we live in a sense.

William Stafford‘s poem offers another approach. We read our lives as stories to each other and share in the living. This is important in leading, which we are all able to do. In a sense, reading life is leading, learning, and teaching in the world we co-inhabit.

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.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

I finished my first weekend of classes today. An emphasis is respectful dialogue in ways that honour the other person. In this way, we to listen and not think of our next response. Perhaps, reaction is a better way of understanding that thinking process.

We critique our work in the group. For example, we share our dissertation statements and, as we are in the early stages of writing, they are a little rough around the edges at times. We try set aside the emotional attachment we form with our work so we can listen to the voices offering help.

William Stafford wrote this poem and the last stanza is profound. When we listen deeply, we move out of the darkness more easily towards the stars we seek.

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:

through 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 the 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.

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