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“He may be short, but he’s slow.”

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Of inauspicious beginnings


That’s what my sixth grade gym teacher said as he watched my friend run the cinder track in a time trial. Some days feel like this: nothing doing, no big expectations and no real signs of progress, let alone genius. Some days seem to perfectly satisfy low expectations, like a poem from John Tottenham:

A long time ago I made a decision

to become a failure. It wasn’t

as easy as I thought: browsing through life

from one distraction to the next, while waiting

for the last lost moment to become unseizable.

As if there were some fundamental honesty

to not striving: There wasn’t.

I suspected it all along. (The Measure of a Man, John Tottenham)

For the past week I’ve been working with an old, old story. I can’t let the story go because I want it to frame a chapter I call “Extreme Listening.” I need the story to hint at what is accomplished when we listen very closely to the voices in our lives. I keep retelling the story to myself, emphasizing different elements to see what it is really about, but it remains elusive.

My story is of a Mighty Narrator and a Woman and a Man and Another Man born of humble beginnings. The Woman wanted a baby so badly she would do anything, including dedicating the yet unborn child to God—which meant the child would grow up apart from her. In her desperate soul-searching and panic of spirit and bargaining with God, she appeared drunk and senseless. The man, an observant official who was himself on a long, slow dereliction of duty, said as much:

“How long will you go on being drunk?” he said. “Put your wine away from you.”

“No,” she said. “I am a woman troubled in spirit.”

“Go in peace,” he said. “And may God grant your petition.”

The Woman had the baby and carried out her promise. The Man continued to abandon his duties and became widely known for how he let things slip. The baby grew into Another Man who took over the Man’s abandoned duties and then steered a nation into (yet another) vibrant beginning.

What intrigues me about this story is the mighty narrator. Because behind the scenes much larger things were happening, things that showed themselves as tip of the iceberg stuff in the conversations between the Woman and Man. So…listening and talking that resulted in pivotal actions (human and well, Other).

I think it is a good story—but who was listening to whom?


Image credit: Nikita Nomerz via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

January 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

One Response

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  1. […] the past three weeks I’ve not been able to escape the orbit of an old story. It’s a story that tells what happens when one takes a stance of extreme listening. I’ve not […]

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