I loved the conversations about poetry with Elizabeth Alexander. As a working mother whose husband works out of town every week, I have a hectic schedule. There are few things that I do for myself everyday — everyday I listen to Writer's Almanac. I love the tidbits of writers' lives that are giving there but more than anything, I love the poetry. I was introduced to Mary Oliver there, just as I was introduced to John O'Donohue through Speaking of Faith/Being. I find beauty and solace and connection through the poetry I hear and read. Those five minutes are a time of meditation that helps me find a little centering and calm in the chaos.
As a singer, a church musician and a want-to-be poet, the idea of civil conversations in the midst of the vitriolic debate of opposing sides, brings to mind the experience I had in my last choir director position. An organist who had previously been at the church where I was attending was asked to come back when the current organist/choir director left. She agreed, but she did not want to direct the choir or be the music director. I was asked to fill those roles. This organist was an outstanding musician, detailed and diligent in her preparation, a wonderful accompanist. She was a generation older than I and had very set ways about how church music should be done, ways she was constantly polishing by personal professional development. I myself taught voice at a local university that catered to the underserved in our community, an environment where versatility had to be second nature to help our students achieved their goals of a college degree. This variation in how we approached work and music, created a tension between us. We both respected each other but sometimes we had very different ideas of what should be in worship and how to achieve our goals.
In my mind's eye I compare this tension to the contra dancing my husband and I do. When we do a swing, there is a balance point between us, the more we trust the balance point, the more we can use each other's weight in the swing. Out of that nexus, more creativity can be incorporated. The same thing happened with the differences in approach and thought between the organist and myself. We had to live with the tension between our approaches but the result was more creative, more integrated and more inclusive worship than we could have achieved alone. In the same way, for conversations to be civil, it seems to me there first has to be mutual respect. Then those that converse need an ability to live with the differences between them and the stress those differences create. Next needed is a certain stability of self that allows us the solidity to use our weight as a counterweight to those whose opinions are different but no less valid. And finally we need a degree of trust, faith that we can use that balance point, that nexus between our weighted opinions, to allow creativity to grow from the tensi ons being held in balance.
I love the conversations you have on Being. I love the way they expand my understanding of the people and world around me. I love the sense of connection I feel with others that are thinking similar things about issues that are important to me. Thank you for what you do and for the opportunity to add to the conversation.
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