Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT September 14th 2020

Two new people joined thirteen “regulars” from India, Mexico, and the United States to discuss an excerpt from Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The setting in the scene is a Clearing were Baby Suggs, holy, gathers people together and exhorts them to dance and cry and laugh. Even more, she tells them they must love themselves because “yonder” they are not loved.

We loved the group’s observations and associations. Together we celebrated the woman sitting on a flat rock, directing and encouraging men, women, and children and echoing gentle preaching akin to the Sermon on the Mount, in the New Testament, and the recitation of the Beatitudes. Other intertextual references included Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet and St. Francis’s “Canticle of the Sun.”

We talked about Baby Suggs’s command to love their flesh–their skin and lungs and liver and heart–visceral references that seemed uncommon. More than one person talked about skin as what holds our organs and bones  together. One informed us that the skin–weighing (on average) 8 pounds and covering 22 sq. feet–is the body’s largest organ, and can bind not only an individual body but also a community. We talked about the color of skin, identity, and difference. One person typed into the Chat that the final paragraph of this excerpt “could be an anthem for the movement Black Lives Matter.” 

One participant commented, “There was hope in this space.” Others named the space “a safe harbor” and “a sanctuary” and “a place to be free.” A space in which there is self-compassion, we observed. A space in which “it is possible to find joy and exchange roles,” one in which we appreciated the fact that “the characters were not asked to clean up their lives.”  

We praised Toni Morrison’s writing. As one person said, “It’s absolute craft” and pointed to her use of rhythm and alliteration. Others pointed to how the writing was able to speak to the “viscera” of each reader, both through the creation of this clearing and through the celebration of the flesh.

We wrote for four minutes, prompted to begin with the words: “You got to love it…”

Four people read aloud what they wrote. The first began by reproducing drums, echoing the beating of feet and hands in Morrison’s Clearing, and praising nature, and words and songs that lift us, as well as reminding us that all life will die and “pass into history.”  

One piece praised “life given” with its peaks and valleys, and the glory of sunsets.

Another gave the story of a man who identified as a sweeper–a legacy that had been handed down in a family of sweepers–his job was clearing trash in the park.

Moved by writing that referred to a “loud noise ringing out from the trees” reminded some of the band “Live“ and the song “Lightning Crashes” which we added as a processional upon leaving the meeting.

Thank you for returning to our clearing this week. We look forward to gathering in our clearing again next week!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, September 16th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 1988. (First published 1987) New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Pp. 87-89.  

After situating herself on a huge flat-sided rock, Baby Suggs bowed her head and prayed silently. The company watched her from the trees. They knew she was ready when she put her stick down. Then she shouted, ‘Let the children come!’ and they ran from the trees toward her.

         ‘Let your mothers hear you laugh,’ she told them, and the woods rang. The adults looked on and could not help smiling.

         Then ‘Let the grown men come,’ she shouted. They stepped out one by one from among the ringing trees.

         ‘Let your wives and your children see you dance,’ she told them, and groundlife shuddered under their feet.

         Finally she called the women to her. ‘Cry,’ she told them. ‘For the living and the dead. Just cry.’ And without covering their eyes the women let loose.

         It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up. Women stopped crying and danced; men sat down and cried; children danced, women laughed, children cried until, exhausted and riven, all and each lay about the Clearing damp and gasping for breath. In the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up to them her great big heart.

         She did not tell them to clean up their lives or to go and sin no more. She did not tell them they were the blessed of the earth, its inheriting meek or the glorybound pure.

         She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it.

         ‘Here,’ she said, ‘in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver—love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your lifeholding womb and your life-giving parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.’ Saying no more, she stood up then and danced with her twisted hip the rest of what her heart had to say while the others opened their mouths and gave her the music.”

Ζωντανή συνεδρία αφηγηματικής ιατρικής: Πέμπτη 10 Σεπτεμβρίου, 6 m.m. EEST

Σας ευχαριστούμε που συμμετείχατε σε αυτήν τη συνεδρία.

Το κείμενό μας για σήμερα ήταν: Μαίρη Όλιβερ, «Άγριες χήνες»

Θέμα: Εν τω μεταξύ ο κόσμος συνεχίζει…

Σύντομα θα μοιραστούμε περισσότερες πληροφορίες σχετικά με αυτήν τη συνεδρία, γι ‘αυτό επιστρέψτε ξανά.

Σας προσκαλούμε να μοιραστείτε τα γραπτά σας μαζί μας παρακάτω.

Καλούμε όλες και όλους που συμμετείχατε να μοιραστείτε όσα γράψατε κατά τη διάρκεια της συνεδρίας μας παρακάτω (“Leave a reply”) και να κρατήσουμε αυτή την τόσο ενδιαφέρουσα συζήτησή μας ζωντανή, υπενθυμίζοντάς σας, βεβαίως, ότι αυτή είναι μια δημόσια πλατφόρμα και η πρόσβαση ανοιχτή στο κοινό.

Θα θέλαμε να μάθουμε περισσότερα  για την εμπειρία σας με αυτές τις συνεδρίες. Αν το επιθυμείτε, παρακαλούμε αφιερώστε λίγο χρόνο σε μια σύντομη έρευνα δύο ερωτήσεων!

Ακολουθήστε τον σύνδεσμο:

Μαίρη Όλιβερ, «Άγριες χήνες» (1986)
(Μετάφραση: Γιώργος Χουλιάρας)

Δεν χρειάζεται να είσαι καλός.
Δεν χρειάζεται στα γόνατα να διασχίσεις
Εκατό μίλια στην έρημο, μετανοώντας.
Αρκεί να αφήσεις το μαλακό ζώο του σώματός σου
να αγαπά αυτό που αγαπά.
Πες μου για την απελπισία τη δική σου και θα πω τη δική μου.
Εν τω μεταξύ ο κόσμος συνεχίζει.
Εν τω μεταξύ ο ήλιος και τα διάφανα βότσαλα της βροχής
μετακινούνται από τοπίο σε τοπίο,
πάνω από τις πεδιάδες και τα βαθιά δέντρα,
τα βουνά και τα ποτάμια.
Εν τω μεταξύ οι άγριες χήνες, στον καθαρό μπλε ουρανό,
επιστρέφουν στις εστίες τους πάλι.
Όποιος και αν είσαι, δεν έχει σημασία πόσο μόνος,
ο κόσμος προσφέρεται στη φαντασία σου,
σε καλεί όπως οι άγριες χήνες, βραχνά και συναρπαστικά –
συνεχώς διακηρύσσοντας τη θέση σου
στην οικογένεια των πραγμάτων.

narrative medicine book club: Magic Mountain, Week 16

Week 16: In the conclusion of this week’s pages we see Castorp seal a new bond with Peeperkorn, a kind of brotherhood forged in the mutual love for Chauchat. In the scene prior, of course, we see Castorp forge a similar bond with Chauchat, agreeing to “a friendship…for [Peeperkorn’s] sake,” and then sealing it with a kiss! I wonder if Castorp will get in trouble for any of this, perhaps leading to the solitude I assume he must be in by the end of the book. As we head into the final stretch, looking forward to what folks are predicting for a conclusion (no spoilers!) – I note that the narrator is ever more interesting, as the voice speaks to itself and to the readers in more directed, perhaps even more frustrated ways? Looking forward to talking more on Sunday! 

For next week: read to the section “Highly Questionable.” 

And join our zoom call on Sunday at 11am! to register.

Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT September 9th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

Our text was the poem “The Decision” by Jane Hirshfield, posted below.

Our prompt was: “Write about a hesitation.”

More details will be posted on this session soon, so check back!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

We will be breaking with our usual schedule next week in honor of Labor Day on Monday September 7th. Please join us for our next session Monday, September 14th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

The Webinar that was mentioned during the session is tomorrow, with details as follows!

Join a conversation with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, JD, who, at a time of rising inequality, is reimagining philanthropy less as charity than a tool to advance justice. The event is the 2020 Ewing Halsell Distinguished Lecture.

Date: Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020
Time: 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. CDT
Place: Virtual (Zoom Webinar or YouTube Live)
Free and open to all. Register at

Mr. Walker calls for “all who work in industries that serve others and the greater good, from philanthropy to education, health care to social services” to unflinchingly examine fundamental root causes of structural inequality and consider whether their own longstanding practices reinforce it. He will detail ideas outlined in his book “From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth.”

The conversation will be moderated by Raul B. Rodriguez, Associate Vice President for International Affairs at Monterrey Tech in Mexico.

The Decision by Jane Hirshfield
There is a moment before a shape
hardens, a color sets.
Before the fixative or heat of   kiln.
The letter might still be taken
from the mailbox.
The hand held back by the elbow,
the word kept between the larynx pulse   
and the amplifying drum-skin of the room’s air.
The thorax of an ant is not as narrow.
The green coat on old copper weighs more.   
Yet something slips through it —
looks around,
sets out in the new direction, for other lands.
Not into exile, not into hope. Simply changed.
As a sandy track-rut changes when called a Silk Road:
it cannot be after turned back from.

Source: Poetry Magazine (May 2008)

Laboratori Di Medicina Narrativa: sabato 5 settembre dalle 16 alle 17.30

Siamo stati molto lieti di avervi avuti con noi!

Abbiamo letto insieme la poesia I pastori di Gabriele D’Annunzio, il cui testo trovate alla fine. In molti hanno osservato come, all’inizio di Settembre, ognuno di noi si trova in un momento di transizione, all’inizio di un viaggio – per alcuni il viaggio è verso l’autunno, per altri verso l’inizio di un nuovo anno scolastico diverso, per altri ritorno al lavoro in tempi di incertezza e cambiamenti. L’immagine della della transumanza ha accompagnato il nostro close reading, immaginando i pastori abruzzesi che lasciano i pascoli montani e si spostano verso il sud per trovare un inverno più mite. Nel parlare del “rito antico” che ci ricorda di tempi passati, abbiamo riflettuto su cosa ci portiamo con noi in ogni nuovo viaggio. In questo caso, i pastori hanno con sé quasi niente, ma almeno “hanno bevuto profondamente ai fonti”. I nostri partecipanti hanno notato come settembre è un periodo di grande cambiamento dell’anno, il passaggio dall’estate all’autunno, durante il quale risuona la nostalgia per la natura e la malinconia della fine delle vacanze. Alcuni partecipanti hanno proposto la domanda, “chi sono i pastori di oggi?”, e hanno parlato di come i pastori di oggi sono i migranti, sia im-migrati ed e-migrati, che si spostano da una terra verso all’altra alla ricerca di lavoro, vita e pace. Un partecipante ha notato come il migrare non è soltanto un tempo per i migranti: tutti noi abbiamo “un tempo di migrazione”. E per di più, la migrazione non è soltanto un spostamento fisico, ma può essere anche una trasformazione metafisica, in cui si confronta con quello che si ha davanti per poi comprendere che cosa si vuole lasciare andare e a che cosa si vuole tornare. Nel leggere il testo di oggi abbiamo anche riflettuto sul modo in cui esperienze e conoscenze passate colorano letture presenti. Invece di metterle abbiamo deciso di onorare e riconoscere le nostre emozioni (“nelle professioni d’aiuto questo andrebbe valorizzato di più”, ha osservato un partecipante. “Ci viene spesso chiesto di sospendere il personale”, anche quando inevitabilmente ci portiamo ricordi ed esperienze passate in ogni nuovo incontro con ogni paziente).

Poi abbiamo scritto ispirati dallo stimolo: “Settembre, andiamo…(continua tu)”. I nostri partecipanti hanno introdotto nuove varianti ispirate dalla poesia: nuovi ritmi, ripetizioni, uso di imperativi e domande nei loro scritti. Hanno evidenziato i contrasti tra il mettersi in viaggio o restare fermi, tra lo spostamento o la staticità. Un partecipante ha descritto la tenerezza del vento di settembre, delle nuvole morbide, della “natura che ci accompagna e che ci solleva”. Altri hanno parlato dell’energia spirituale che viene ogni anno con il mese di settembre, e dei sensi che usiamo per vivere e sperimentare i cambiamenti dell’autunno: “il sole che scalda ma non brucia”, la dolcezza dell’aria, i colori vivaci delle foglie. Nell’ascoltare i testi composti dagli altri partecipanti, abbiamo meditato anche sulla consapevolezza del momento presente e sulla bellezza del linguaggio. È state una sessione molto ricca di riflessioni e parole, di gratitudine per le opportunità di “so-stare” consapevolmente e di “andare senza dimenticare” .

Se avete partecipato al laboratorio, potete condividere i vostri scritti alla fine della pagina (“Leave a Reply”). Attraverso questo forum speriamo di creare uno spazio per continuare la nostra conversazione!

Stiamo raccogliendo impressioni e breve feedback sui nostri laboratori di medicina narrativa su Zoom!

Questo breve questionario (anonimo, e aperto a chiunque abbia frequentato almeno un laboratorio) è molto importante per noi, e ci permetterà di elaborare sul valore dei nostri laboratori e sul ruolo dello spazio per riflettere e metabolizzare il momento presente. Vi preghiamo quindi di condividere le nostre riflessioni con noi! 

I Pastori - Gabriele D’Annunzio
Settembre, andiamo. È tempo di migrare.
Ora in terra d'Abruzzi i miei pastori
lascian gli stazzi e vanno verso il mare:
scendono all'Adriatico selvaggio
che verde è come i pascoli dei monti.
Han bevuto profondamente ai fonti
alpestri, che sapor d'acqua natia
rimanga ne' cuori esuli a conforto,
che lungo illuda la lor sete in via.
Rinnovato hanno verga d'avellano.
E vanno pel tratturo antico al piano,
quasi per un erbal fiume silente,
su le vestigia degli antichi padri.
O voce di colui che primamente
conosce il tremolar della marina!
Ora lungh'esso il litoral cammina
La greggia. Senza mutamento è l'aria.
Il sole imbionda sì la viva lana
che quasi dalla sabbia non divaria.
Isciacquio, calpestio, dolci romori.
Ah perché non son io cò miei pastori?

narrative medicine book club: Magic Mountain, Week 15

Week 15: Chauchat is back at the Berghof, and she has brought with her a very colorful character, wonderfully named Mynheer Peeperkorn (!). Aside from comic relief, I wonder what folks think Mann is up to with this character? Castorp and Chauchat share an interesting scene – there is clearly intimacy between them, though she discourages him from calling her by her first name – and then Peeperkorn arrives, and a raucous party ensues, the first I think we’ve seen this closely at the Berghof. Peeperkorn and Castorp talk about “vice” and “doomsday,” and Peeperkorn tries to get Castorp and Chauchat to kiss each other goodnight, to which Castorp refuses, an “act of insubordination” that amazes Peeperkorn. My interest is peaked! 

For next week: read to “Mynheer Peeperkorn (Conclusion)” in Chapter 7. 

Our next zoom call will be 9/13 at 11am! Click here to register:

Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT September 2nd 2020

Our text today took us to a 1970s jitney station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where a husband and wife (Darnell and Rena) discuss a recent surprise home purchase. The excerpt from Act 2, Scene 1 of the play Jitney by August Wilson, was read by two different pairs of readers without stage directions, so they “performed” solely through dialogue. We began our exploration of the exchange by asking who is present in this conversation beyond Darnell and Rena, the two characters who actually speak. There are quite a few, including a child named Jesse, Darnell’s friends Ba Bra and Earl, someone named Peaches, and Rena’s mother. One participant noted that each of them influence the dynamics between the two speakers. Others commented that Darnell also refers to his old self, so the past Darnell also becomes a factor in the present day. Beyond those other characters, we thought about whether gender roles are at play. One person saw a male aspect to the way Darnell seemed to be seeking affirmation with his grand gesture, trying to win Rena’s approval but coming up short – again. Some of us found the conversation uncomfortable to hear and wondered if Rena was being too hard on Darnell, while others thought Darnell’s gift of the home was actually for himself rather than for Rena. We commented on how the two have different desires: Rena focused on practical concerns like whether the yard has a fence, while Darnell imagined how nice it would be to have a den in the basement. We picked up on the subtext in the conversation, which was about more than just the house but about their entire relationship; we had the feeling these two people have had this same discussion many times before.

Participants wrote for 5 minutes to the prompt, “Write about slipping” (inspired by Rena’s last line: “I know people change…but I know they can slip back too”). Five readers shared their work, and everyone had a chance to respond. The one reader reflected on “Unpacking this year and all the disturbing things…what has happened to the world? What has happened to my world?” As the narrator situates herself in space and time, she does so with a sense of exploration (and a tropical beverage). Another reader also explored memory, but in extreme conditions of another sort: “Montreal is cold…Not once, twice, but thrice — slipped on ice. Canada is free, but frozen.” The group appreciated the humor, and drew connections between the good intentions of the husband in the writing and Youngblood in Jitney. We were intrigued by a reader describing how a slip tests both friction and gravity, where metaphorical back stairs “permit myriad sins, not all even pleasurable but rather necessary, filling in holes from the past that you’re supposed to pretend don’t even exist but – if you do that – they chew out your entrails like a fox.” One reader crafted her inquisitive position with alliteration (“Curable inmates: what do they wake up to? Slipping into wakefulness has poisoned their minds…constantly conscious careful”). This reminded one participant of patients in an ICU. Lastly, one writer’s piece clipped along with conversational energy and conflict with much like what plays out in Jitney: “It’s so damn easy to judge, isn’t it?…Don’t throw a stone, unless you’ve never broken a promise.” An overarching theme to the discussion of the scene and subsequent writing was bias — how it shows up, plays out, and is mitigated (or not) by reflection and communication.  

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

We will be breaking with our usual schedule next week in honor of Labor Day on Monday September 7th. Please join us for our next session Wednesday, September 9th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

From “Jitney” by August Wilson New York: The Overlook Press, 2001.

YOUNGBLOOD: You want to know what I was hiding from you? I’ll tell you. I been hustling … working day and night … while you accuse me of running the streets … and all I’m trying to do is save enough money so I can buy a house so you and Jesse have someplace decent to live. I asked Peaches if she would go with me to look at houses, cause I wanted to surprise you. I wanted to pull a truck up to the house and say, “Come on, baby, we moving.” And drive on out to Penn Hills and pull that truck up in front of one of them houses and say, “This is yours. This is your house baby.” That’s what she was trying to hide from you. That’s why Turnbo seen her riding in my car all the time. I found a house and I come up a hundred and fifty dollars short from closing the deal, and I come and took the eighty dollars out the drawer.

RENA: A house? A house, Darnell? You bought a house without me!

YOUNGBLOOD: I wanted to surprise you.

RENA: You gonna surprise me with a house? Don’t do that. A new TV maybe. A stereo … a couch … a refrigerator … okay. But don’t surprise me with a house that I didn’t even have a chance to pick out! That’s what you been doing? That’s the debt you had to pay?

YOUNGBLOOD: You always saying you don’t want to live your whole life in the projects.

RENA: Darnell, you ain’t bought no house without me. How many times in your life do you get to pick out a house?

YOUNGBLOOD: Wait till you see it. It’s real nice. It’s all on one floor … it’s got a basement … like a little den. We can put the TV down there. I told myself Rena’s gonna like this. Wait till she see I bought her a house.

RENA: Naw, you bought a den for Darnell … that’s what you did. So you can sit down there and watch your football games. But what about the kitchen? The bathroom? How many windows does it have in the bedroom? Is there some place for Jesse to play? How much closet space does it have? You can’t just surprise me with a house and I’m supposed to say, “Oh, Darnell, that’s nice.” At one time I would have. But I’m not seventeen no more. I have responsibilities. I want to know if it has a hookup for a washer and dryer cause I got to wash Jesse’s clothes. I want to know if it has a yard and do it have a fence and how far Jesse has to go to school. I ain’t thinking about where to put the TV. That’s not what’s important to me. And you supposed to know, Darnell. You supposed to know what’s important to me like I’m supposed to know what’s important to you. I’m not asking you to do it by yourself. I’m here with you. We in this together. See … house or no house we still ain’t got the food money. But if you had come and told me … if you had shared that with me … we could have went to my mother and we could have got eighty dollars for the house and still had money for food. You just did it all wrong, Darnell. I mean, you did the right thing but you did it wrong.

YOUNGBLOOD: No matter what I do it’s gonna come out wrong with you. That’s why you jump to conclusions. That’s why you accused me of running around with Peaches. You can’t look and see that I quit going to parties all the time … that I quit running with Ba Bra and Earl … that I quit chasing women. You just look at me and see the old Darnell. If you can’t change the way you look at me … then I may as well surrender now. I can’t beat your memory of who I was if you can’t see I’ve changed. I go out here and work like a dog to try and do something nice for you and no matter what I do, I can’t never do it right cause all you see is the way I used to be. You don’t see the new Darnell. You don’t see I’ve changed.

RENA: I know people change … but I know they can slip back too.