Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dexter's Response


Thanks for taking the risk and sharing your thoughts and your challenges. Being the "new person" in a group comes with its "outsider" element. The challenge for any group is to help to shorten that outsider time so that the new person feels that her/his voice is welcome. As challenging as it is, we hope to be a place where open discussion takes place and where we can all feel welcome to learn together. Of course that means taking the risk of making mistakes. The key is can we learn together without devastating each other in the event of mistakes or missteps.

Because we share differnt life experiences, our truths must collide at some point. Where we go from there is the challenge of mature life. The first time my most cherished truths were challenged I was disoriented and needed new moorings. Thankfully I have found moorings that can accomodate challenge and change. The best we can do, I believe, is to hold tentatively to that which we believe with an openness to learn from others. In other words, all of us have gravel under our feet and the water is clear only sometimes.

On another note, I just listened to the excerpt from the song. You and Kristi are good. I hope you and Kristi will sing for us soon. This is the reason for the kind of discussion we had last week and propose for next time. We need to know what talents and abilities are in our Conversation family.


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. (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