‘...fairytales are true.’ He describes a way of looking, seeing right through reality to the truths beyond. He is one of the beyonders, those wise enough and willing enough to yearn to dwell tenderly in the metaphoric world.
~ Jay Griffiths on Italo Calvino.
Storytelling has long been a theme in my life, but it’s only in recent years that I have come to fully understand the importance and significance of stories in our lives. We tell our stories to one another, and on some deep level we understand things more profoundly, it’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we are changing the world. It has become more and more clear to me just how powerful it can be. In sharing our stories with one another, in the act of Telling, we gain insights into our own understanding of the world, and so does the listener. It helps to dismantle the old story, making room for the new one.
Springtime in Wicklow.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself thinking a great deal about that big theme in our stories, Love. I was thinking about just how essential it is in our roles as adults, how important it is as a ground zero for any and all things we may ever share with our children. The power it has to give meaning to something is not to be overlooked. I understand, of course, that it is a very fundamental need in us as humans, to need a meaning for things, and children know this and trust this instinct because it comes from themselves. And when they trust themselves, their instinct is almost always Love.
We were lucky enough recently to spend a weekend in the company of Rob Greenfield who was in Ireland to start his European tour, which he kicked off with a talk in our lovely community here in Bray, Common Ground. I feel so grateful that my children have opportunities like this to meet and talk to people like Rob and see the difference one person can make, how our choices every day have an impact, and we have the power to choose, every day. It’s far more powerful than coming from mum or dad! Hearing about his adventures, and the challenges he has set himself, was so inspiring for them. They were amazed that it was as simple as me reaching out to him when I heard he would be in Ireland, and the next thing he is sitting at our table, breaking bread with us, and speaking with such honesty and authenticity about his life and his ideas. I know the 13 year old and his friend were particularly inspired, and came away with new eyes for the world.
Rob Greenfield talking at Common Ground.
Rob spoke about the world as it is today, he spoke about how we all have choices, every day, and the impact those choices have. He told stories of just how far he discovered we need to go in order to truly address the brokenness of what we are living with. But he told all of these stories with such love and warmth, and without judgement, that we were left feeling inspired rather than guilty and overwhelmed. As Rob spoke to the room that Sunday in Common Ground, I couldn’t help but be aware of the love and openness his message was both given and received with. Everyone was there to be inspired, and honestly, it’s the biggest attendance we have had for an event to date. From start to finish, the generosity that was shown was incredible and heartening. From members getting stuck in to our annual spring clean Meitheil work party (nothing like an incentive to put a date on it!) on the Friday and Saturday, to those who helped organise the room on the day, the dishwashers, the techie people, the food bringers, and those who donated to Rob’s non-profit charity fund, and of course to Rob himself in so many ways.
Chatting with Rob in our lovely reclaimed forest garden at Common Ground,
We had a community pot luck dinner after, and as always there was enough food to feed everyone, and a chance for people to meet one another, to have conversations, to share ideas and information about different things that are happening in their area, because that is what it is all about - sharing - an expression of love and openness and authenticity - something that can be hard to find in so many walks of life, but often for teenagers and young adults in particular.
Early morning in the mountains.
And there is the kernel of my thoughts and mullings and ruminations these last couple of days: now more than ever, the importance of those three things, love, openness and authenticity in how we communicate with our children, and by ‘our’ I mean the children of our time, whether they belong to us or not. It’s a scary time we live in, especially for those who are coming of age right now, and we need to instill a sense of hope and power in them. This might seem obvious to most of us, but are we actually expressing that to them on a daily basis?
And what about the idea of connectivity? When it comes to ‘the world today’, and the endless list of imminent crisis’ that always seem to be inescapably looming, it’s too easy to go down the road of 'us and them', to feel overwhelmed, and to ignore the simple Truth that we are all part of the same organism.
There’s an important distinction between fighting for the sake of the fight (our own), and fighting for something bigger than ourselves. One is reactive, the other proactive. And in both we have a responsibility.
It was so good to see love, openness and authenticity in action in Common Ground on that day. Everyone listening, rapt, drinking it in - the bigger ‘fight’ that does not need to be a fight, but Doing! Here is someone Doing, and we can all Do, we Do every day, but doing it with awareness and intention is what is important. There was a very clear coming together in the room that day, everyone there already Doing in their own way, and even though I am used to this because that is the very essence of Common Ground, it draws in people already there or looking for it, through my experience of the other hat I wear, the school one, I am reminded daily of the need to create a space for our younger folk to talk about these issues, to discover what they already know but cannot name.
Throughout the journey away from traditional schooling that we’ve been on these last few years, I have become so aware of the challenge facing today's children, and their parents, and just how important it is that they are supported and listened to, and not given up on. It’s not enough to wait until they grow up and ‘cop on`. We owe ourselves the honour of being the best guides and mentors we can be, the Elders they so deserve, in order to ensure that when the time comes they can take the reigns with confidence and surety, and bring this new story to the next chapter.
They are the Beyonders, willing to dwell in the metaphoric world, to learn from the stories, from our mistakes.
They just need us to trust them so they learn to trust themselves.