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The economy of connection
Households have work; and ideally, trust too.
This stint in Australia, I’m doing a lot of work with groups: community or chaplaincy or charity groups looking at their conflicts, or communications, or team dynamics. I’m enjoying it — it’s a mix of the conflict analysis, group work, and poetry for me. A sweet spot.
A question that I’ve been asking lately has been, “What experience from your childhood prepared you for the work you do now?” In a way, it’s a sibling question to Krista’s magnificent one asking about the spiritual or moral background to your childhood.
People tell of teachers who had great influences, or an uplifting experience, or a sudden grief, or a life-altering move from one location to another. They speak about a friendship. Recently, a person said she’d grown up in a household that had a lot of vagueness, which has helped her feel at home in ambiguity in the enormous responsibilities she carries. Someone told a story about an injustice they’d seen that gave them the motivation for their work, and another spoke about how their experiences of having struggled at school gave a seed for what they do now.
One of the things these conversations do is to bring a younger — other — self into the room. It’s a conversation between selves. It’s a conversation across time too, a bridging. It isn’t always the obvious youthful experience people choose; and it isn’t always their formal job title they think of as “the work you do now,” either.
Part of what interests me in this is the way in which a room can hold attention toward whomever is speaking. If there’s space and time, I don’t like it that we fire round the room, everyone saying what they say, and then the next person. I like it that there’s a few minutes after each person shares for others in the room to ask a question, to offer a reflection, to notice something about their colleague that is highlighted by this story. In years of conflict work, I became convinced that big industry questions about productivity, key-performance-indicators, collaboration, critical thinking, and budgets could be enhanced (rather than detracted from) by deepening human encounter. It is, for me, an economy — a word coming from the Greek oîkos implying household. Households have work; and ideally, trust too.
There’s another Greek word that comes to mind too: poíēma; a word meaning “a made thing,” from which we get the English word poem. In groups of people, I’m interested in something being made: connection. And this connection can help all kinds of work, or warmth, or collaboration, or productivity. In a time when isolation is spoken of highly, I think the value — and I mean this word in all its possibilities — of human connection is of vital artistic, societal, and emotional importance. Connection is a made-thing, a poem that occurs between people, something that gets a life, and gives life.
There’s nothing new about this. It’s as old as the hills. The hills know.
So, all of this is a build-up to ask:
What experience from your childhood prepared you for the work you do now?
I’ll look forward to the connections — the poems, the made-things — that occur as we interact in the comments. Thanks friends.
Poetry in the World
Friends in the area, I’d be delighted to meet you – beginning this week!
Please note tickets to the May 2 poetry reading in Carlton, Melbourne are sold out.
May 5-7: Poetry and interviews at Sacred Edge Festival, Queenscliff, VIC. Tickets and information here.
May 11: Afternoon seminar on poetry, language and sacred text, and evening interview at St. John’s Cathedral, Brisbane.
May 12-13: Poetry Retreat in St. Kilda, Melbourne, in association with Small Giants Academy. Tickets and info here.
May 18: Poetry reading and interview in Sydney at Poetica Petit, with special music performance by Miriam Lieberman, plus an open mic session. 6pm-8pm. Tickets and information here.
Returning and Becoming Conference | Asheville, NC
I’ll be sharing poetry and thoughts at a retreat at Kanuga (near Asheville, NC) on June 13 (morning and evening) and June 14 (morning). Hosted at an Episcopal Retreat Centre, this conference is open to all. My sessions will examine poetry, language, challenge, and change. Details and registration here.