In the tarot, The Star card is often encapsulated in a single word: Hope. The Star offers a respite from the deconstruction and self-examination of Death, The Devil, The Tower. The Star reminds us of our inner strength and calls us to a higher spiritual self.
That’s why I call Maxine Hong Kingston a star in the subject of this post. I just watched her interview with Bill Moyers on PBS. She has created a community of healing through her workshop, Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, a gathering of people suffering through trauma and pain, many of them veterans of Vietnam. These people have found healing and a measure of peace through writing.
Maxine and Bill discussed the transformative power of story, especially of writing our stories. One thing that she said stuck with me. By writing our stories we take the chaotic and random memories and emotions of our lives and give them shape. We create a form, and that form can then be communicated to another person. Communication creates connection creates compassion. The authors and poets featured in their anthology have used writing as healing, have saved their lives and created a place to which others can turn for hope.
MAXINE HONG KINGSTON: That what I mean is that when people share their stories and they share their hardships, that all of us will listen. We’ll help carry the burden. And so, after writing in such a way, in which we release our feelings we take the– something that happened chaotically in the past. Or it happened so subtly, that at the time, you hardly notice you’re– there’s no time to think it over.
But later, 39 years later, putting it into words, slowly– understanding one’s own feelings, and understanding the point of view of others. And shaping what happened into a form and this form is a beautiful form. The form of a story, the form of a poem — after immersing one’s self in all of that, then there comes the understanding, recognition, reconciliation.
I am awed and amazed by Maxine Hong Kingston, not only for coming through her own trauma by creating this healing community, but for her way of expressing those concepts about writing and the healing power of story. Human beings are creatures of story. We live in story, and by taking control of the story, giving it shape through our thoughtful expression, we quite literally create our worlds.
Perhaps no one short story anthology will stop a war. No single non-violent protest will end all violence forever. But by sharing ourselves, by becoming beings of peace ourselves, by baring our truths to our community, we create a small circle of peace. That circle can expand as our communities do, as our communications do, until like the ripples left by a pebble in a still pond, the circle reaches the very edge of possibility. There lies the power to change the universe.
You can watch video of the program or read a transcript (and more than just Maxine, other contributors to the anthology are interviewed and several excerpts and poems are read) at the Bill Moyers Journal website.