Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Steve's Conversation

I have felt like I'm wading into unknown waters all through my attendance at "The Conversation". I can feel the pebbles beneath my feet. I walk gingerly. The waters are dark, I cannot see the bottom. I move slowly, occasionally stumbling, but continuing on nonetheless. The others wading here know the waters but a little better than I, or so it seems. Yes, they have been to some places in this ocean before, but like myself are feeling their way.

I recognize people who speak the same language as myself, and I am finding them here. All week long after I attend a "Conversation", I find myself returning to those hours, thinking about the topics, the stories, the indivduals involved. I have been afraid that I will be seen as a voyeur, as I am somewhat afraid of being seen a fool. I realize that's the chance all of us have to take if we are to express ourselves, indeed grow as human beings. Spending your life defending positions that are untenable does not seem (never has seemed) like a good option to me.

There was a time when I realized that everyone believes something that is categorically, absolutely untrue. Most of us believe MANY things that are untrue. Now there's a sticky subject, the truth. One of the most amazing things about the "Conversation" is the openness of expression of individual truth. So, if all of us possess a different truth, isn't that somewhat oxymoronic? A contradiction? No, it's not. The truth is that we do live in different realities, and to find the common touchpoints, to define reality that suits us all hypothetically would allow us to move on as a group, united in the beliefs that we share, or don't share.

I haven't been very willing to expose myself. You know, we can all put a few words out that supposedly define who we are, but there are never enough words to really accomplish that. I think that's why there are novelists, playwrights, poets, songwriters. They are all trying to define who they/we are with words, and the worlds just pile up until there are billions of books full of words, and still nobody really knows who they are. When you think you know who you are, what happens?

We've been navigating the waters of racism since I've been attending "The Conversation". Some time ago I experienced the epiphany that 100 years is a very short time in the span of the universe. Although I don't know, I probably had relatives who owned slaves, or at least were overt racists. They would have had to have been, and the more we delve into this, the deeper this reality comes home to me. It's really not that I didn't know these things before, but frankly, like many other realities, it's easier to ignore them, painful to not (ignore them). I have written a number of songs trying to find the past, I suppose romaticizing my grandparents, and doing in the process the same thing for other people of my same ethnic, and national background. www.geocities.com/steveandkristinebel/alonghundredyears.wav (click on this for a lofi excerpt from one of these kinds of songs).

So, the more I learn, the harder it is to sing some of these songs, even though there is an audience for them. Experience . . . yes experience. My wife and I have been singing in high end retirement homes (among other places). One of the remarkable things about these places is their resemblance to a plantation setting. All of the inhabitants are often "white", while the serving staff, kitchen staff, cleaning staff are often people of color. These are clearly (to me) stark illustrations of racism in America. These white folks love those songs glorifying the pioneer heritage of my grandparents.

Then there is the experience of living on the poor side of town, as Kristi and I often have. We live there for the same reasons other people do, being economically challenged. This means that we are walking through the social problems that other people only read about. Once again, it can be painful to see people in need, people hurting, and feel like you are powerless to help in any significant way.

It's time for me to get on with my day. I don't think that whatever I would write, there is ever an end of things to be said, if it is only to comment on what should not be said, or what the empty spaces between the words mean. As easy as this is/has not been for me I love "The Conversation". Steve Nebel 12/06/06

1 comment:

Marla said...

Steve,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

When I was younger, I took great comfort in the idea that there was just one great truth, and that if I could find it, my life would start to make sense and intense happiness would ensue.

Unfortunately, my search for truth revealed more contradictions than answers. Nothing was certain, and there was no comfort in clinging to beliefs that I held that belied my reality.

What brings comfort to me now is the realization that truth is relative to one's own existence, and that we believe what we choose to, and what we need to, and that contradictory things can all be true at the same time. What I try to do most often is stretch myself to suspend disbelief, discomfort and judgment when others share truths that contradict mine and threaten my view of how things are or should be.

I, too, struggle with being seen as a fool if I share too much of myself at The Conversation. And although being there, listening, digesting, ruminating on what I've heard is something I've come to look forward to every week, I know that risking being known fully by others is something I need to do to foster my personal growth. I'm working on it, and it's nice to know that you are working on it, too.

Just listened to Birds of Winter, and I really loved it. You and Kristi are very talented and thoughtful people.

Marla