Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The disappearance of story

Ron Marson, tall, thin, intent, serene, rose for his chair in the silence of our Quaker meeting last Sunday and spoke his truth.

He had just returned from a 10-day hike in the mountains, he told us. In the course of his trek, he said, he became one with the forest, the trail and the moments.

His entire being reduced itself to stepping around a rock or root, or grasping a branch, or hearing wind in the fir or feeling the cool of the shadows.

“My own story disappeared!” he exclaimed.

He invoked the phrase several times. “My own story disappeared.” It was almost as if he were in awe, still a bit stunned.

“My own story disappeared!”

Now that he was back, his story had returned. Society, friends, responsibilities called upon him to be “him.” The forest and the mountains made no such demand. Instead, they absorbed him.

When Ron rises to speak in our meeting for worship, as he often does, I am always struck by the depth of his words. It isn’t a depth of complexity, but — in the manner of seasoned Friends —the depth of simplicity, integrity and peace.

In the silence that followed his brief “ministry,” it occurred to me that Ron had just shared his experience of losing his story by telling one. Some stories are like that.

It’s a bit like the conundrum I share with my journalism students about the day there was no news. It would be the biggest news day ever. No news? And why might that be? Were all audiences vaporized along with all journalists? Would it be the day humanity disappeared, destroying itself perhaps, leaving fleas and worms to decide what was “news.”

But more to the point, Ron’s story about the loss of story speaks to how Quakerism cleaves to Zen and mysticism in general. They rely on stories, and on the non-story called silence, which in turn resounds with everything — and nothing.

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Anonymous Nonprofit Girl said...

Thanks for sharing this--I miss attending MMM, and messages like this one are one of the biggest reasons why. I find in them a silence and stillness that, somehow, ripple loudly through life as usual.

1:47 PM  

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