Last weekend I spent three days learning the art of peacemaking circles and walked away having learned just as much about myself as about circle keeping. I affirmed that the spoken word is not my preferred or best form of communication–a fascinating (though unsurprising) discovery, made mainly through the sheer terror experienced each time the talking piece made its way to me. Our (incredible) workshop leader Kay noted the importance of offering a variety of ways for people to respond throughout the circle process–with objects, self-made crafts, pantomime, etc. ‘Otherwise’–she said–‘you are only catering to the people who are good with words.’ Now this is an obviously true statement and perhaps not even a remarkable one. But (the more I’ve thought about it) it’s remarkable how much of our culture and process and spaces of expression hinge upon one’s ability to express him/herself verbally. How many of our spaces are dominated by one form of expression? And how can we create space for others to communicate by other means, allowing them to be their best selves?
I don’t have the answers….but I do have some thoughts. I remember applying to college and of the ten (yes, TEN) schools I applied to, only one asked me to share about myself in some way other than the classic resume/essay/GPA combo. One school (shout out to TCU) asked all applicants to take whatever creative liberties they wished with a blank 8.5″ by 11″ piece of paper. Pure genius and pure fun. That is likely the only application in my entire life that has ever been attached with the word ‘enjoyable’. And I still remember what I did. I recreated the scene from Apollo 13 where Tom Hanks is looking at Earth from the shuttle window and covers the entire planet with his thumb.
I don’t remember how I described it’s significance at the time but watching it again, that scene provides such an incredible paradox of our insignificance and our brilliance. That we are small and dispensable yet profoundly powerful–enough to leave and survive outside our own planet. And to dare believe that was even possible in the first place.
And I would have never been able to express such profundity without being allowed some construction paper, glitter and glue.
All I’m saying is that maybe we can and should do more of that. How many job candidates are we overlooking because we can’t figure out a better way to allow people to show themselves than a cover letter, resume and lame interview questions? And how many voices are we missing in important meetings because the only way to contribute is by interrupting or speaking up or having the perfectly-stated three point plan?
This feels particularly important when working with marginalized folks who may actually be scared by the sound of their own voice. Or artists who could bring a room to tears with a simple movement, photo or gesture but may struggle to create a fully formed sentence in front of a crowd. Let’s get to crafting y’all.