In the realm of the Spirit, and when dealing with our own souls and the souls of others, we are often at a loss for words. We have a sense, maybe even an image of what we want to share, ask, or communicate, but words are harder to find and express. Stories are the glue that hold us together in whatever groups we belong to, even if we only visit or find ourselves on the margins. In a sense, our God is a story being told and God is seeking for all of us to listen, to enter into the story and become one.
Megan McKenna uses images of Russian nesting dolls to illustrate the many layers of the stories that exist in each of our lives, particularly in relation to the Spirit. Stories are critical to living and are intertwined with truth in such a way that we can carry them with us, remember them and pass them along, sharing them as needed. We live inside a story. We live inside God.
Megan McKenna, a native of New York City has lived, visited and gypsied through North and South America (especially Bolivia/Peru), Europe and a collection of islands: Celtic, Japanese, the Philippines, Singapore, Haiti and the Hawaiian Islands and through Malaysia, India, Marshall Islands, Thailand, Australia and China.
She works with Indigenous groups, in base Christian Communities and with justice and peace groups as well as parishes, dioceses and religious communities. She has been on the United States National Board of Pax Christi and in 2002 was appointed an Ambassador of Peace for Pax Christi.An internationally known author, theologian, storyteller and lecturer, she teaches at several colleges and universities and does retreats, workshops and parish missions.
She has graduate degrees in Scripture, Adult Education and Literacy from the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley, and a Masters in Systematic Theology from Catholic University, Washington, DC But foremost she is a lover of words: the Scriptures, stories and tales, poetry, images and phrases spoken aloud, written down and spun to make meaning and how these both convert and transform us and bring meaning and hope to the world.
She has authored more than thirty books, including And Morning Came: Scriptures of the Resurrection, Praying the Rosary, Send My Roots Rain, The New Stations of the Cross, On Your Mark: Reading Mark in the Shadow of the Cross, and the recently released, Harm Not The Earth. She resides in Albuquerq.
American born McKenna is a prominent writer and lecturer about religion and spirituality who conducts retreats for laity and clergy. Veritas has already published more than thirty of her books. McKennas great strength is that she approaches the subject of spirituality from an ordinary persons point of view and conveys ideas about religion and god in a way that the ordinary person can relate to. In this volume she takes up the idea of stories as a way into religion. She recognizes that people can feel spiritual and religious but can often find it hard to express what they feel in words. Her idea is that some things can be expressed better in story form. Stories can be explanations and metaphors but also something that people have in common and so a way of sharing ideas and beliefs.
Using the Russian babushka dolls, where one is concealed inside others, she proposes the idea of meaning being layered inside stories and even of stories being layered on each other. Thus she uses this idea to convey religious and spiritual concepts about the origins of the universe, the Incarnation and the paschal mystery, and how these relate to real life for ordinary people.
- Books Ireland, December 2009
Though the cover of this book may suggest a simple read, the bibliography indicates otherwise. "Stories are the most ancient and revered form of expression among people,"suggests author Megan McKenna. She goes on to illustrate this point and to define what is meant by "story". The definition, through personification of Truth and Story illustrates the authors concept of stories within stories. Hers is an interesting theory though I found it a little convoluted in places, paticularly at the start of the book. The reader becomes curious as to how Megan McKenna will develop the idea - that Story and Truth story telling and spirituality - go happily together.
The author brings us three kinds of stories, the first a sacred story belonging to peoples, religions and traditions. The second set of stories belong to people and their geographical area - folk stories. The third set of stories tell of a particular tale, perhaps humorous, tragic or introspective. Megan has travelled widely to draw these stories.
Stories within stories tell us "what is outside us, beyond us and within us", often revealing to us things we had not realised about ourselves. Many genres of story illustrate this.
The author points out the importance of the build-up to a story. She uses the image of the Russian nesting dolls (Matryoshka dolls), to bring us from the wide spectrum of our lives to the most concealed and hidden areas (of the tiny doll) where we are "deep in the heart of the Trinity". Questions, activites and prayers follow each chapter. I found these very interesting.
- Angela MacNamara, The Irish Catholic. 26 Nov 2009
We live in a story-shaped world and we are all the better for it. From the tales first told around the fires of indigenous peoples to modern day movies and Facebook sharing, human beings have relied on stories to give meaning and magic to our lives. Megan McKenna is an internationally known author, lecturer, retreat leader, and spiritual director. She is a one of Spirituality & Practices Living Spiritual TeacherS (link) and the author of many books including Harm Not the Earth.
McKenna sees stories as the "glue that holds us together" in a world of many arbitrary separations and divisionS. Stories are good medicine for the soul and in this fetching paperback, the author demonstrates once again her knack for finding touching and insightful tales from around the world. She uses images of Russian nesting dolls to convey her reverence for the many unfolding stories connected with the Christian faith and the movements of the Spirit. She salutes the importance of the imagination and the art of listening in the realm of faith.
Noting that Christianity has always emphasized the importance of stories, she proceeds to look at the Trinity, Creation, the Incarnation, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the Spirit in the church and in the world. At the end of each chapter, she includes a section of questions, activities, and prayers.
All of these stories, in one way or another carry the same message: God is with us and this world is filled with grace. McKenna uses a quotation from the early Church: "The Spirit: the kiss of the mouth of God." What a pleasure it is to be in the company of a Christian author who has traveled the globe, picked up hundreds of stories, and has the ability to open our hearts, minds, and souls to the whisperings of Spirit as we plod through our busy days!
Have you ever considered how life and experience might be like a Matryoshka doll? Clue: you are many hidden stories - but are you ever given opportunities to tell your stories out loud?
Theologian, author and spiritual director, Megan McKenna uses the idea of these Russian nesting dolls to situate us within the many stories that make up an individual life. On her travels she has collected numerous folk tales and other creation stories which she shares, emphasising the importance of knowing and telling our own stories. Stories are the most ancient and revered form of communication and expression among peoples, she writes.
The many ways of relating within the family mean we have a variety of tales to tell. Equally, we connect with others in various cultural and faith settings and it is these layers of our relating that Megan McKenna compares with Russian nesting dolls: each one hidden inside another so that, unless we look deeper, we see only one doll.
Embracing all the others, the largest doll carries the primary story of our life lived in God. This is the pivotal story in which we live and we must tell it out loud until we become the story. In this way we make the story come true and we come true within it, as God intended. This is a remarkable book in which each chapter concludes with questions, activities and prayer to encourage sharing on the Sunday gospels. The author considers the harmful influence of nations, politics and economics on the planet. She offers fresh interpretations of our cherished Christian stories while urging that we, the Church, understand and respect nature and the traditions of others, and then respond to the newest promptings of the Holy Spirit by becoming servants of the world rather than feeling superior to it.
- Kate Barrance, The Reality, March 2010
- STORYTELLING AND SPIRITUALITY
That I might search all books and from their chant, find my souls calm. , St Columba
It is said that God loves stories. In fact, in the Jewish mystical tradition it is believed that the Holy One created the entire universe , all that exists in the reaches of space, in the darkest bed of the oceans, all that is sourced in the molten core of the earth and all that lives and moves and has its being on the earth, including all human beings , because God wanted to have someone to tell all the stories to. Put another way, we were made first of all to listen to the stories and then to respond to them.
There is a saying among storytellers around the world that goes: If there is no one to listen, then there is no story to tell. The understanding is that if you hear a story often enough, you begin to believe in it. If you believe in it you will begin to tell it yourself. And then, in the telling, you will begin to make it come true in your own life. In fact, you will come true as the story begins to tell you! This may sound fanciful to some, but stories are the most ancient and revered form of communication and expression among peoples. Stories were chanted, drummed out, carried on the notes of musical instruments, danced and mimed, even ritualised and then, in a cycle of the seasons, passed on by elders and tellers by word of mouth and remembered through generations.
What is a story? That is a harder question to answer than might first be perceived. Its roots in various languages contribute to a rich understanding of what a story actually is or was in its beginnings. The Oxford Dictionary puts it succinctly:
1 account of imaginary or past events; narrative, tale, or anecdote.
2 history of a person or institution, etc
3 (in full story line) narrative or plot of a novel or play, etc
4 facts or experiences that deserve narration
5 colloq. fib or a lie
But the definition goes on to clarify what is entailed in the first meaning. It says:
1 recounting, yarn; account, recital, record, history; legend, myth, fairytale, or story, novel, epic, saga, allegory, parable; article, piece, composition; version, statement, representation, description
2 and 4 biography, curriculum vitae, life (story); tale, yarn, saga
3 scenario, (plot) outline, thread, summary
5 excuse, untruth, falsehood, fabrication; tall tale.
That covers a lot of territory and time. Basically, it is a listing of the kind of stories that most of us are familiar with from childhood or academic study or experience. In Latin, it comes from historia, and it is also connected to the old Anglo-Latin word storey, which means a horizontal division of a building, from floor to ceiling in each , a floor, level, tier. In fact, the Dictionary of Word Origins connects the two terms historically and architecturally:
Storey itself was borrowed directly from Anglo- Latin historia, which is known to have been used for picture, and may also have denoted a row of pictures in the form of stained glass windows or statues, telling a story, which filled the entire wall between floor and ceiling at a given level of a building.
In English, the sense now of story and history has been kept separate, but in French (estorie) the two meanings are still intertwined, with the sense of knowledge or learning by inquiry, either orally or in any written form. Unfortunately, in many western European/American cultures it has also retained the negative meanings of story: that of something not true, fabricated to hide the truth, a lie, or at best fictional. This is really a rather late concept, emerging around the eighteenth century. Before that, history and story were interchangeable words.
I have used a primary rule in storytelling for the past forty plus years. It reads: all stories are true and some of them actually happened. It is followed by: and when I say Once upon a time (or any other leadin phrase to a story) it is happening to you. It is a defining statement that sets the foundation for all storytelling. Truth is larger and deeper than history or any experience or happening that can be verified by observation or even scientific experiment. There is the old adage that my grandmother used to say to us:
There is my truth and there is your truth and there is our truth and there is The Truth. This is the truth of stories, in layers, both revealing and concealing at the same time, always open to another interpretation and more mysterious than any reality. Stories allow us to see ourselves from many vantage points and so to encounter another piece or glimpse of the truth. And perhaps it is time for a story! This is an old story and it is told in many traditions, but it is somehow the same in all the versions.
Once upon a time there was Story and there was Truth. They were great friends and often got together to talk about the world and how things were going and what had happened in their lives. But oh! their lives were so different from each other. Story would arrive at their rendezvous in swirling skirts and scarves, with ribbons in her hair and a shawl hand-woven over her shoulders. She was always dressed for the occasion and she brought gifts with her: food, wine, books, pens and paper, as well as fruit all packed in her baskets. And she was full of stories! She had adventures to recount. She would enter a town, a tiny hamlet or huge city and before she could tell her second story she was invited to dinner, to stay overnight, to meet the leaders, to play with the children, to stay! And she would regale Truth with all her experiences.
And it was always the same. When she was finished she would look at Truth and Truth always looked tired, weary and a bit worn thin. Her clothes were clean but ragged and her hair was just tied back in braids, and her eyes were bright but her movements slow and deliberate. She was always hungry and hoping they could meet at an inn so that she would have a decent bed to sleep in. And, sadly, her story was always the same. She would arrive in town and folks would take one look at her and run or hurry away. She would speak passionately and strongly and they would cringe and look for a way to escape. She was never invited to dinner or to stay overnight and people often pulled their children away from her. Most certainly she was not welcome to stay , just go on your way, out of town. She so longed for people to listen to her, to look her in the eye and, especially, just to stay while she spoke. One evening after a day spent together, Story had an idea. She dug into her baskets and pulled out a scarf and threw it around Truths neck, then gave her a couple of skirts to wear, took down her hair and tied a few bows in it for a change. Then she pulled Truth to her feet and told her to stand up straight, lift her head up high and look her right in the eye and speak , speak the truth with her old passion and intensity. And Truth did! Story put her arm around her friend and said: No one really wants to hear the truth, and certainly not in public or face-to-face with it , it is overwhelming. You and I, we are really identical twins, so from now on, let us look alike as well as being blood and soul kin. And so it was and so it is; now wherever Story goes, the Truth is told! People love stories and Story always tells the Truth.
It is a good story to start with because it links together storytelling and spirituality. Let us look at these concepts more closely and deeply.
Stories question us. A story asks: in a hundred years from now what will the last twenty-four hours and all you have been concerned about, worried over and thinking through really matter or mean? Or a story asks: what will our children and grandchildren and all those who come after us think of us and our choices? Will they say, What in the world were they thinking? Or stories probe deeper, asking: what does your/ our life look like from Gods point of view? And even more pointed: what does your/our life look like from our enemies standpoint? (Gandhi used to say that one of Gods best gifts to us is our enemy, because they allow us to see ourselves as we truly are and as God sees us.) Or a story asks a question that has become more crucial in the last fifty years: what does our life have to say about earth, air, fire, water, wood (the fifth element in Asian culture) and resources that belong to everyone? And these questions about truth are just starters, jumping-off places for those listening to a story.
Truth crosses boundaries and borders. It overlaps generations and languages, cultures and historical epochs. It is universal in laying bare meaning. It illuminates our relationship with the Holy, with one another, with the universe and with our own souls.
In general, there are three kinds of stories and they are connected to how easy or how hard they are to tell and the depth that is found within them. The first kind of story is a sacred story that belongs to a people, a religion and its traditions. What makes a story holy is that people over generations have staked their lives on the story, sought to integrate it into their own lives and sometimes actually died attesting to and witnessing to the storys truth.
These stories belong to six of the major religions of the world , Indigenous Religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism , but the stories all share some things in common. They belong to a people, not to individuals, and so are not changed, but passed on from teller to teller over generations. They are public knowledge and they are shared within a community as part of the religious belief and practice. More to the point, the community holds the hearer accountable for the telling of the story and for putting it into practice. It is also often an intimate part of the ritual and liturgical life of the people. These are the easiest to tell because they are unchanging in their primary forms and major details; they are learned by heart and carried from one generation and group to the next. There is wiggle room in the telling or delivery of the story, but there is also strict adherence to the core and the thrust of the storys contents and meaning.
The second set of stories are those that belong more so to a geographical area, as well as belonging to a people. They are often called tales, yarns or folk stories. Even fairytales can fall into this category. Their telling often depends on knowledge of local terrain, weather, water, geography, cultural background and, most especially, dialogue and regional dialects. It helps immensely if you come from the place where the story originates. There are many varying accounts and they cross national borders and regions, but change characters and details. They can be wildly funny or be ghostly, terrifying tales. They can be what are often called how to and why does stories: why does fire make noise and crackle? Why is water wet? They are often connected to seasons or the elements of the universe , stars, moon, sun, comets, rain, snow, drought, plants, trees, insects, animals, birds , and places that are familiar to the listeners.
The last set of stories are the ones that are the hardest to tell; they are the stories that actually happened, either to you personally or to someone else, an historical person or someone you knew. These stories bear a burden of intimacy and live closer to the surface of the tellers life than the other stories. They are often very humorous, tragic or introspective, hitting close to the bone. And often they evoke strong emotion, not only in those who hear, but also in those who are attempting to tell the story. Generally, the more personal a story is, the harder it is to tell, and the harder it is to make universal in its appropriateness and meaning.
Within these very large categories of stories there are many genres of stories, some of which were previously mentioned in the definition of story: sagas, epics, parables, myths, memoirs, adventures, legends, science fiction, mysteries, who done it tales, tall tales and autobiographies. In this book we will delve into stories of the religious traditions, the more universal stories that cross the boundaries of our own particular stories and spiritually.
I have a second rule of storytelling that says stories, out of their very nature, create community. Stories tell us who we belong to, who holds us accountable and where home is for us. In light of this reality, stories connect us to what is outside us, beyond us and within us. They give us a background, a sense of where we come from. They give us our values, our hopes and fears, our dreams of the future, not just as individuals, but also as belonging to others: ancestors, families, religions, God, friends, groups, institutions and countries. The stories we tell reveal our connections and our ways of finding meaning in the world. Everyone has stories and shares them: families, parishes, organisations, groups, religious communities, schools, nations, cliques, friends, our peers and intimate relationships. They are always in the process of revealing us to ourselves and to others and filtering the world into our lives while inserting us into the larger world. In a sense, we are known by the stories we tell.
In fact, part of this rule of storytelling is the proposition that we are known by three things: the stories we tell and the company we keep. This appears to be only two things, but in reality there are three characteristics. They also happen to be the characteristics that bind us to our religious community. We tell stories. In our tradition we tell the Judeo-Christian stories as our sourcing heritage, our beginnings and our history with the One God. We tell the stories of resurrection and incarnation, of unbounded life and love, hope, justice, peace and Good News to the poor. We tell the stories in the context of all creation and in the Trinity, as well as our place in the world, the church and our individual lives. If we are Christians, believers in and followers of Jesus, then we tell the stories of resurrection, forgiveness, mercy and justice coming hand in hand, peace, abiding freedom and the mysteries of a God made human dwelling still among us.
Then we are known by the company we keep. Company comes from the ancient words of breaking bread with others: who do we eat with, share our food with, sit down at the table with daily and ritually in our liturgy and worship of God? For Christians, the depth and range of our rituals revolve around breaking open words and stories and breaking bread and opening a bottle of wine together to share as one. Stories remind us that we cannot be human without others, and how we order our lives with others and God forms the foundation of our religion and our souls life.
And thirdly, we are known by what we do with our bread. In every culture of the world bread is not just food, it also designates resources and money. What do we do with our money? Where do we get our money? Who do we share our money with? Our religion publically calls us to answer these questions: the stories we tell, the company we keep; breaking bread and sharing sustenance. This is the core of religion. Stories delve into these issues of heart and soul and daily bread, flesh and blood. Stories uncover our spirituality and the spirituality of those who lay claim to us and who we claim to belong to in this world and forever.
In telling and hearing stories there is one more rule of thumb. There are only two basic reactions to a story that is told and heard. The first is: I love that story. It is great! That is the way the world is. That is the way I want to live. That is my idea of living and my idea of God! That is great news. That is the way the world is supposed to be. I want to tell that story, live that story, and I love you and will follow you anywhere! Again, this can seem like it is an over-the-top reaction, but in fact it reveals the centrality of story , is it true? And are we going to make it come true?
The other reaction is just as stark and clear: I dont like that story. I dont even know why I dont like that story. I dont like what it says , about God, about you, about people, about me, about life. I dont like you either and Im going to make sure that story doesnt come true. It can even develop into a statement like: Im going to kill you (so the story cant be told). Again, this may sound too intense and strong, but there are a lot of ways to kill a teller: by twisting the story for ones own end and agenda; by deliberately taking the story from its source and making it say something opposite; or by attacking the teller. There is a saying in Latin America that, loosely translated, says: Long before anyone was shot with a gun, they were killed many times over by somebodys tongue. Stories tell the Truth and reactions to the Truth can be experienced from one end of the spectrum to the other in response: acceptance or rejection. And since we are known by the stories we tell, that acceptance or rejection can spill over onto the teller as well.
We have talked a lot about story, but what of spirituality? A definition I use which might be helpful is this: spirituality is the way God expresses what is divine and holy in our bodies and souls, as persons and with others. So, individuals have a spirituality, but so do families, religious communities (Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Jesuit, Claretian, etc.), organisations, parishes (hopefully the saint or moment of mystery that is proclaimed in their names), countries and national churches (Russian, Greek Orthodox, American, Asian, Irish, African, etc.). And perhaps the best way to talk spirituality is to talk story! Spirituality is the core or the heart of what is the Truth of what it means to be human, alone and with others on the face of the earth, now and for always.
Another story, and this one will weave together spirituality and the holiness of the divine that resides within us with story. It is from the mystical tradition of Judaism, from Reb Nachman.
Once upon a time, two men came to town and both wanted to see the rebbe immediately. One was a storyteller with books and stories and the other was a learned scholar with his treatises on the law and customs. The rebbe (the rabbi and leader of the synagogue) heard that they had both arrived at the same time and said: Oh, you must bring the storyteller in first. His disciple went out and brought in the storyteller, apologising to the scholar that he will be next on the list. He wonders why the itinerant teller rates being brought in first and why the scholar is made to wait, but he says nothing to his teacher.
The rebbe listens to the storyteller and looks over his books and copies of the stories and is in awe of them: Beautiful, just amazing, marvellous; I love the story you told. This is it on paper? Oh, such power, such truth, such holiness. You are blessed to have this story and I am blessed to have you stop by and visit me. I am so grateful. Eventually the storyteller leaves and the scholar is ushered in next. The rebbe and the man versed in the halacha (laws and traditions) talk and together they look over his collection of books. And the rebbe says to him: Beautiful, just amazing, marvellous; I love the way you interpret the law and the ancient traditions and your knowledge of the details and practice. This is it on paper? Oh, such power, such truth, such holiness. You are blessed to have this learning and I am blessed to have you stop by and visit me. I am so grateful. And the scholar goes on his way.
The disciple is full of questions, beginning with: Why did you bring the storyteller in first and make the scholar wait? I would think you would honour the one who has studied and worked so diligently at his profession and make the storyteller wait. And the rebbe looked at him with a twinkle in his eye and said: Im just imitating Hashem (the name for God in spoken conversation) and doing what he did first. The disciple looked blank. The rebbe went on: This is the way that Hashem did it in the Torah. First all the stories were told. The stories of creation, of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar, and Isaac and Jacob and the wanderings were told first; then the stories of slavery and Egypt and the Exodus and Passover and the wanderings in the desert and the making of our people, Israel and then the most incredible story was told at Sinai and we were in all those stories! And then when we got to the mountain of Sinai, then Hashem gave us the laws and the rule of life. So, you see, Im just
following what Hashem does: first the stories and then the laws.
In fact, didnt you know that the rabbis say that after Hashem gave the laws, the commandments to the people, in the light of day, he then spent the nights telling us stories on what they meant and how to interpret them? Why, we even have stories of people who dream stories like Joseph and David and so many of the prophets. God so loves stories. (Me too!)
That little tag was added by the rabbi who told me this story the first time, with a twinkle in his eye and a broad smile on his face! In this book I am going to use three images to try to tell stories and uncover spirituality. All three are very interconnected and integrated. They are really the same image to say and reveal three different aspects of spirituality and storytelling too. The main image is that of the Matryoshka dolls, one tiny one, then another and another, nesting inside each other. Usually there are eight dolls in all, but I have seen ones that have more and a few that have less. An old venerable Polish lady told me that they are really secrets hiding inside one another, waiting to be opened and told, shared and passed around. It is a grand image. I will use the Matryoshka dolls to talk about our stories, from our tiniest singular story/doll to the one that can be life-size, containing all the other stories/dolls. We so often begin with our own stories, so individual and often not necessarily universal, but only resembling the stories of those immediately around us or related to us. What would happen if we began our stories with the big doll, the one that encompasses and holds all the other dolls, and worked our way down to our own private and small stories and lives? Would it change the way we tell our stories? And would it change the way we interpret their meaning spiritually?
This book will start with the large, encompassing and mysterious stories of those who believe in Christianity and work its way down to our own tellings. We will look first at the Trinity, then the story of the universe and Creation; then the Incarnation; and on to the story of the Paschal Mystery of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, and how we live that story out ritually and orally, seasonally and in community. We will continue with the Spirit in the world and then the Spirit in the church in the world, and then uncover church in its national and local configurations and groupings, which can overlap nations and time frames. Then, as the dolls grow smaller, we will look at the small groups that we are bound to and that hold us accountable in school, parish, religious community or work. The next to the smallest doll will represent family and friends and loved ones. And the last, smallest, most concealed and hidden doll denotes each of us individually, deep in the heart of the Trinity. Through this image, we will concentrate on our relationships with one another and God.
The second image comes from my travelling to the islands of the South Pacific and Africa. I live a good portion of the year on the road, and when living out of a suitcase you take the essentials for living in different countries, climates and seasons of the year across the world. I carry notes with me and a worn copy of my Bible, held together with rubber bands , anything in a suitcase suffers a good deal from wear and tear. One day, someone gave me a basket while I was in the islands of the South Pacific. She told me with reverence that it was made of the land and that it had a few things of the island and the people within it for me to take with me when I travelled. The basket is for filling and emptying out as I travel, binding me like the grasses in the basket to my far-flung community.
It is the image of baskets nesting within each other; like the dolls, there are tiny ones with covers placed inside larger and larger ones. The basket that holds them all can be massive. I was given a set of these and had to ship them home to New Mexico by boat and then by air because they were so huge. This image will concentrate on what we have been given: our resources to share, our gifts and material possessions, our work and our abilities that are given so that they may be shared with others.
The third image comes from Asia and other countries where I was gifted with intricately designed lacquered boxes: exquisitely painted, again tiny ones nestled inside larger and larger ones in oblong, circular and diagonal shapes. That time I was told that one must keep things that are old, from another time, and filled with wisdom from all that has gone before us, so that we remember to find ourselves in the river that flows from the beginning of creation and the Creator that made us all. This image will reveal traditions, memories and knowledge and rites: what is old and ancient yet ever-new, wisdom passed from generation to generation, enriching life beyond survival and daily living.
All three containers bear secrets that are waiting to be uncovered, lifted out and seen singularly, as well as in relation to all the others it dwells with and lives inside. A stack of secrets, a cache of communities, a figure that both conceals and reveals the mystery and grace of what it means to be human beings , they will be our companions and treasures to accompany us through the stories we tell, the company we keep and the bread that is sustenance for both body and soul. With the dolls, I am people- bound, with the baskets I am place-bound and with the boxes I am time-bound. I can always be reminded that I live inside all these stories, with all the world and its people in all times. We will begin with the story, the largest of the dolls, baskets and boxes: the Trinity.
To begin: which of the images , the Matryoshka dolls, baskets or boxes nested inside each other, hiding secrets to be found, used or shared , most intrigues you? Why? What about the other images? What is it about each of them that you find more difficult to connect with? Share with others.
1. Once upon a time, God dreamed you and told you into being. What is it like to be a story told by God, like no other, but somehow connected to so many other stories?
2. Do you keep a journal? Perhaps you can start writing your own story, from your point of view, remembering and including what others tell you about the past, but keeping in mind what it might look like from Gods point of view, or your grandchildrens, or your enemys, or what it would sound like one hundred years from now. Pick one and stay with it for a while to see what knowledge and wisdom is given to you in telling, writing and sharing orally.
3. What is your favourite story? Why? And what is your favourite story from the gospels? Why?