Soulful Songs and Stories
With a song and your stories, we co-create a soft place for hard conversations and a brave space for personal and spiritual growth.
There has been no gathering since February, but the Soulful Songs and Stories group has been quite active! Since the singular experience of sharing our stories face-to-face can’t be replicated via computer, we have not even tried. What we have done instead is send out an email every Friday about songs, stories, storytelling, community, or personal/spiritual growth until we can meet again.
Below is an archive of monthly Soulful Songs and Stories' commuications:
In this one hour podcast (with transcript) Rebecca Solnit talks about her new book, Recollections of My Nonexistence, and tells her story about growing up, about place, about men, about writing, about reclaiming herself, about her gratitude for the queer community. Although this is an interview, the interviewers give Solnit the space to tell her own story. What Rebecca Solnit does here is sort of what we do in Soulful Songs & Stories writ large, and an inspiration for us to continue telling our own stories. It’s a delight to hear Solnit in her own voice. An exquisite wordsmith and storyteller. Accompany this with Keith Jarrett’s rendition of “Answer Me.”
Here are three stories from within stories: “What is Real?” from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, a clear and simple explanation of the role of vulnerability in giving and receiving love. The next is “The Grand Inquisitor” section of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, a complex metaphor illustrating how tyrants (even church tyrants) portray freedom as something to be feared. In a similar vein, the last piece is Derrick Bell’s retelling a section of Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ that pits spirit against structure. Soulful songs to go with these stories include “In The Light of Love,” by Deva Premal & Miten; “Oh Freedom,” by Aaron Neville; and two versions of “Deep Peace”: Richard Stoltzman/Judy Collins and Bill Douglas/Jane Condon Grimes.
The Little Prince was written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943. This excerpt from Chapter 21 is about making connection, building relationships, responsibility, and that “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” The companion song is “If I Should Fall Behind” by Bruce Springsteen.
“Duelling Sitars,” with Bill Bailey and Soumik Datta are not really dueling at all: each musician invites the other to participate and then creates space for the other to respond. Sometimes words aren’t even necessary: our presence is what really matters. In “Helping, Fixing, or Serving?”, Rachel Naomi Remen has several anecdotal stories about the distinction between helping, fixing, and serving, and how that only serving heals. This a great guideline for everything we do from giving advice to caregiving to philanthropy. “Do This in Memory of Me” by Edward Hays is a stunningly profound expression of service/consecration. Additional words of wisdom come from Parker Palmer, Dorothy Day, Alan Watts, and others.
Being divine and being naked with each other are a large part of why we share our stories. Songs and stories can help us sort this out: “God Help the Outcasts,” excerpts from a Jennifer Brower sermon, some quotes, and “The Rabbi’s Story.” We cover our bodies with clothing, cosmetics, and ornamentation just as we hide our souls and our true selves behind roles and titles and words and work. A song to ponder: “See Me, Touch Me, Feel Me.” Stories to consider: from Slate and the NY Times on being physically naked; quotes from Rumi, Gibran, and others; and a poem by May Sarton on being spiritually naked.
Addressing complex issues—whether theological, social, or organizational—usually requires unconventional and non-authoritarian thinking. Consider the subject in song: “Little Boxes,” “Another Brick In The Wall,” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” And in story: two YouTube videos on Unitarian Universalism, three pages of quotes and David Hayward cartoons, and a poem, “Jailbreak,” by Maya Spector.
Too often taking care of ourselves is mistaken for being selfish or self-centered. Understanding why we should (and how to) value and love ourselves is a large part of why we share our stories. Consider this in the words and music of Keb Mo, “You Can Love Yourself,” and in the wisdom and sage advice of Emma Thompson, bell hooks, Erich Fromm, Byron Katie, Rumi, Virginia Woolf, Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou, among others.
#8 When to Listen, Speak, and Be Silent.pdf
Knowing when to listen, speak, and be silent have been hallmarks of our Soulful Songs and Stories time together. We celebrate and explore this in song in Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” To help us consider this in story, we have Win Bassett, Parker J. Palmer, and Christian Scharen on silence, and Audré Lorde, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and James Baldwin on speaking out.
#9 Mercy, Kindness, Justice.pdf
Kindness/mercy and justice are UU hallmarks and are a practice (or at least a goal) of how we are with each other when we gather to share our stories. Consider this in song: “Bring Forth the Kingdom,” “The Kindness Song,” “Kindness is a Muscle,” two jazz versions of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and “We Shall Overcome.” Written words and stories are from Naomi Shihab Nye, George Saunders, Mark Matousek, Thich Nhat Hanh, Kathleen & James McGinnis, William Wordsworth, Maria Popova, and Adam Phillips & Barbara Taylor, plus quotes from a host of others.
We celebrate laughter in song with “The Laughter Song!” by Lisa Coleman, “The Secret of Laughter” by Swami Kriyananda, and Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With.” In word and story we have the wit and wisdom of two dozen people as diverse as Reinhold Niebuhr and Kevin Hart, Viktor Frankel and John Cleese. And yes, cartoons.
By telling our stories we sow the seeds not only for our own growth and liberation and healing, but also for those who hear our stories. There’s no guarantee of the outcome; if you want a guarantee, buy a toaster; otherwise, we should let go of expectations. Consider this in song: “The Garden Song,” by David Mallett, “Plant A Radish,” by Tom Jones, and Ina D. Ogdon’s “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.” Offering perspectives in parable, story, and poetry we have Jesus, Anthony De Mello, and Gandhi, plus some unfamiliar or unexpected sources: Stephen W. Hawking, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Carl W. Buehner, and June Jordan, among others
Sharing our stories, beliefs, and experiences around a theme suggested by a song is a pathway to our higher, better selves. Some who have been exemplars of what this journey could look like—Jesus, Lao Tzu, and others—have had the path they followed/emblazoned referred to as “The Way.” When we seek or walk The Way, sometimes we have company (a mentor, a book, etc.) but in the final analysis, in the words of the song “Lonesome Valley,” “Nobody here can walk it for you, You gotta walk it by yourself.” Some of the people who shine their light so we can find The Way include singer/songwriter Tift Merritt, Thoreau, Rachel Naomi Remen, Sophia Lyon Fahs, John Steinbeck, James Baldwin, Barbara Holmes, and more.
What makes sharing a story so special is that it’s a “minute particular,” a personal act of caring and vulnerability. Any “scoundrel, hypocrite and flatterer” can wear a pin, throw money at a problem, wrap themselves in a flag, or hide behind a principle. A look at two lines from William Blake’s epic poem, “Jerusalem” as it relates to creeds and deeds and calling out injustice. We’ll explore this in song with “The Water is Wide” (sung by Pete Seeger, Eva Cassidy), “Up Above My Head,” “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen,” and more; and in stories via the NY Times, the UUA, Martin Niemöller, Ann Patchett, Craig Ferguson, Hillel, Ricki Lee Jones, and Rabindranath Tagore, among others
Here are alternating songs and stories, almost all of which are by people who identify as LGBTQI. There are more than two dozen musical selections including pieces by Aaron Copland, Billy Strayhorn, KD Lang, Paul Robeson, Freddie Mercury, and Stephen Sondheim, and an equal number of stories and quotes from Harvey Fierstein, Barbara Jordan, Quentin Crisp, Tim Cook, Alice Walker, and Sally Ride among others.
A look at Soulful Songs and Stories through the lens of Black Lives Matter and the issues of race, diversity, and privilege. There over two dozen musical selections ranging from Luigi Boccherini to Miles Davis and Ruthie Foster, alternating with words of wisdom from Dave Chappelle to Frederick Douglass and Nikky Finney.