With the results of the election coming in and the rise in hate speech and violence, we recognize that this is a very disorienting time for many. As a response to all this we held a night devoted to sharing stories of orientation and inspiration; stories that inspire and transform us; stories that lead us in new directions. Below are the pieces of writing that inspired three of our storytellers. Also, listen to the recording of their stories here.
GUIDE MY FEET, BY MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN
I just want to cry and cry and cry, Lord;
I can’t bear my burden today
or see my way to tomorrow.
Lord, straighten my back
clear my head
strengthen my voice
infuse my heart
with your mighty spirit.
Our Father and Mother who art in Heaven, let Your will and not ours be done.
Hallowed be Your name and not ours on earth and in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and help us not to worry about tomorrow.
Forgive us our sins and give us a spirit of forgiveness for the sins of others.
Lead us away from temptation and trouble and deliver us from our own evil and that of others.
And keep our eyes not on the world’s fleeting power and glory today
but on Your Kingdom, Your power, and Your glory forever.
My weary spirit needs to lie fallow
and wait for You to prepare its soil for planting again.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.”
INVISIBLE MAN, BY RALPH ELLISON
From the Prologue:
On the definition of invisibility:
“I am an invisible man… I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me… When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me… My invisibility
On how it feels to be invisible:
“You’re constantly being bumped up against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren’t simply a phantom in other people’s minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And alas, it is seldom successful.”
Bonus! I though this excerpt was relevant considering the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump’s Chief White House Strategist and Lead Council and also because of the general movement in Europe–Brexit, Marine Le Pen–towards nationalism, anti-establishmentarianism, anti-globalism, and anti-multiculturalism (or as Steve Bannon has said, “Anti-everything, big on the anti-.”)
From the Epilogue:
“Whence all this passion toward conformity anyway?–diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you’ll have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business they’ll end up forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive toward colorlessness? But seriously, and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let it so remain. It’s ‘winner take nothing’ that is the great truth of our country or of any country. Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat. Our fate is to become one, and yet many– This is not prophecy, but description. Thus one of the greatest jokes in the world is the spectacle of the whites busy escaping blackness and becoming blacker every day, and the blacks striving toward whiteness, and becoming quite dull and gray. None of us seems to know who he is or where he’s going.”
DESIDERATA, BY MAX EHRMAN
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.