[Just after Pentecost Sunday, I recalled this reading describing the experience of the Holy Spirit in the base communities among the poor in Latin America]:
Then they have this experience: suddenly they begin to act; they discover that they themselves are capable of action. Before, they had no plans, no projects for the future, only frustrated dreams. They had no confidence in their own judgment, in their capacity to plan and gain practical knowledge of the world. They followed custom of the instructions of their masters. Now they discover that they are acting for themselves, discover that they are capable of setting and seeking goals, of achieving objectives….
It is a matter of experience undergone by a community of people who feel that something new is coming about in their midst.
- Jose Comblin, The Holy Spirit and Liberation (1989)
[Last weekend we celebrated 21 graduates from SSU. One inspiring moment was Joel Mason singing this song, with Jeremy Barham’s mandolin accompaniment]
Then lights they fill the air, or were they always there?
I finally see it. I finally see it.
And I heard the captain say, I heard the captain say,
“You’re always close to it, so very close to it.”
There’s so much energy in us.
(Cloud Cult) – There’s So Much Energy In Us
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
[for Remembrance Day, this excerpt from a Christmas poem by Maya Angelou seems a fitting way to remember with hope and be reminded to “speak the word aloud”]
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds….
We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
– Maya Angelou, from Amazing Peace.
You can read the whole poem here.
Communities, in the sense in which we are using the term, have a history – in an important sense they are constituted by their past – and for this reason we can speak of a real community as a “community of memory,” one that does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story, its constitutive narrative, and in so doing, it offers examples of the men and women who have embodied and exemplified the meaning of the community. These stories of collective history and exemplary individuals are an important part of the tradition that is so central to a community of memory.
The stories that make up a tradition contain conceptions of character, of what a good person is like, and of the virtues that define such character. But the stories are not all exemplary, not all about successes and achievements. A genuine community of memory will also tell painful stories of shared suffering that sometimes creates deeper identities than success…. And if the community is completely honest, it will remember stories not only of suffering received but of suffering inflicted – dangerous memories, for they call the community to alter ancient evils. The communities of memory that tie us to the past also turn us toward the future as communities of hope. They carry a context of meaning that can allow us to connect our aspirations for ourselves and those closest to us with the aspirations of a larger whole and see our own efforts as being, in part, contributions to a common good.
- Robert Bellah et al. from Habits of the Heart (1985)
I came across this passage in Communities class and was struck by the way last year’s Field Notes project fit this description. (And there are still a few copies left of the collector’s edition left! If you’re interested, contact Rosie at [email protected])