In Memory of Angeles Arrien

To our Connecting For Community Friends

This week we received the sad news that Angeles Arrien passed away on April 24 of complications from a long bout of walking pneumonia.  She will be deeply missed.

For those who wish to honor her memory, she asked that they light a candle once a month on the anniversary of her passing, for one year. 

At Angeles’ request, there will not be a public memorial, her family will have a closed private service at a later date.

Charles and I thought you would enjoy the transcript from last April when Angeles joined us remotely.  You may recall that she couldn’t be with us in person after taking a tumble in her garden. Our hope is that her wisdom can continue to live on through each of us.

With love,
Charles Holmes and Ann Ralston

April 2013 Connecting For Community, Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I am sore today but I am grateful that I am vertical, so this is good. So okay, well one of the first things is just deep gratitude to Charles and Louise, and Ward for this great invitation and to you Peter and our friendship and I really was counting so much on being there but obviously the mystery had another plan as me and you would say. There are really two plans for every day, there’s my plan and the mystery’s plan and the mystery and the garden hose had a great plan to bring me back to earth.

So I know the world is really held up in many ways by a great mystery which includes time, space, spirit, and matter or creation. And I think it’s interesting that Edgar Cahn holds the portal of time, and Harrison – I regret that I’m not there to see you again but you hold the portal of space – and Walter Bruggemann holds the portal of spirits, and Peter holds the portal of creation or what matters most for matter. So it’s interesting that the word “world” is a very old word, it comes from the root word “wer” and “wer” is an old word that was “woman” and woman held both “wo” or “wer” is woman and man… woman and man together and world holds “old” so it holds woman, man and old. So it’s a timeless… the world is a timeless place where humanity in its woman form, and its man form, have come together to create many many stories. And I’ve been deeply influenced in my life by Joseph Campbell who said:
What we call the world is a reckless story. A wild, star-crossed narration being told through the breathing green garden of nature, and revealing itself in the tragedies and comedies of earthly life. The world is made of stories and cannot end unless all the tales reach the same conclusion. In the end there are too many plots, twists to predict, and too many loose threads to tie up, so from some loose end, or ragged remnant, the whole tale begins again with every new inspiration, every challenge, every surprise, or in what we seek that matters most.

And so I’m always reminded that if you were to go to an indigenous society of any kind, and you were reporting that you were dispirited or disheartened or depressed, they would ask you one of four questions: when in your life did you stop singing? When in your life did you stop dancing or moving in your body? When in your life did you stop being enchanted by stories and particularly your own life story or journey? And when in your life did you stop being enchanted by the sweet territory, or comforted by the sweet territory of silence?

Because their belief is that when we stop singing, or wherever we stopped dancing or moving or exercising in our body, or whenever we stopped being enchanted by story or comforted by silence is where we began to experience soul loss, or loss of spirit.

And so today, one of the things that I want to introduce is really the power of story, as we’re in a process of – in all our lives – of restoring or to restore ourselves or to re-story our experience. And stories have been the oldest teaching healing art in the world. And there’s not a culture in the world that doesn’t have story or use story as a way of transmitting values or wisdom. And stories have been with us since the beginning of time in the formation of language, and it’s a way to express meaning and to connect and to heal and to uplift and to teach and to transmit what matters most.

I often think the function of story really has seven purposes: it restores, it regenerates, it reveals, it reconnects, it reconvenes, it re-conveys, and it helps us all remember what is always inspiring or challenging us or touching us or surprising us. And stories always take us to a timeless place where memory and the imagination are braided together with the past, present and future.

And it always includes the three universal processes that all of us are involved in every day of our lives. And those three universal processes are: work with self – it’s the longest relationship we’ll ever have, with ourselves, who do we sleep with the most, talk to the most, eat with the most, shower with the most? That is ourself. And so that is the heart of my work with self at this time, because that’s an always ongoing relationship.

And then the next is what is the heart of my work in relationship with myself and another – whether with friends, family, colleagues, loved ones, no one is exempt from the art and craft of relationships, which teaches us a lot about love and intimacy. Intimacy in the truest sense – into me – see how willing am I to allow others to connect in generosity of spirit and friendship, collegiality, partnership, family, children, parenthood.

And then the third process that we’re all involved in and we enter into at birth is family or community. No one is exempt from working in groups or chains. Any grouping of three or more people makes community or culture. So those are the three processes: self, other and collective. And while you’re all in Cincinnati, the spirits of land, the spirits of place, and all the ancestors that have come together to explore connection with community and the incredible gifts of community and how community reveals to us our own self work and our relationship work. It all culminates in community.

I just wanted to share these three very small stories: one around self-work, one around relationship work, and one around community work. And self-work comes – this is an old story from the Judaic tradition of the wise man Zeusa who went to the top of Mount Gibrai and asked for guidance for his community. And he came back down from the mountain after three days and three nights and he was just terrified, and the community saw him terrified for the first time and the community said: “Zeusa Zeusa, what did you see? What did you learn that made you so afraid?” And Zeusa said “Oh I now know what the angels will ask me on the last day. I now know what the angels will ask me on the last day.” And the community said: “But Zeusa you’ve led a model life, you’ve led a model life, there’s nothing to fear.” And Zeusa says: “Well they will not ask me about what I have contributed, they will not ask me why I didn’t do all of these things, the only thing that they’re going to ask me and that they will also ask you is – put your name before this question – because the question they will ask me is: “Zeusa, Zeusa, why weren’t you Zeusa?” And so putting our own names before that question, at this time, what is getting in the way of my being who and what I already am? Zeusa, why weren’t you Zeusa?

The next little story is about relationships and it also has everything in it, not only about relationship, but also where we are in the world at this time and where we are in the community at this time, but also where we are with ourself at this time. And new stories always emerge out of a deep restlessness or longing, because the overall story is about being lost and found or about learning and returning, so about a dance in which the mystery lets us swing as far away as we can and stretch before bringing us back into full circle into a tight embrace. And so this is a story about… that’s found in all of the cultures of the world, we know it in the West as Pandora. But in many cultures of the world, it’s not a woman… it’s a man, Pandor, or in other cultures it’s not even a man or a woman but it’s a creature. But the story always goes the same. And this is about relationships, so as I tell the story you might think about: what is the heart of my work in my relationships at this time? And especially, my core and deepest meaningful relationships.

The gods and the goddesses became very restless and longed for a new creative project. And they thought, what would be a project that they could create that would last through all time? And they thought and they thought and they thought and finally they thought “Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to create a creature that was of the gods and the goddesses of divinity, but also was a creature of the world, or of earth?” and they thought “Oh, what an incredible project.” And so they decided well how could they do that, well they would definitely go down and get some clay from earth, and then they would spark it and give their divine gift to this clay. And so Venus gave love, and Mercury gave communication, and Zeus gave leadership, and they went on and on and infused this clay and created this magnificent creature and named it Pandora.

And they admired their good craft and their good work, and they thought, “Oh, this creature, it can live both on earth and with the gods and goddesses because they’re made of both.” But this creature must also have a test, and a taboo that they must not break, and so they thought “what would that be?” and they gave the creature a vase, a beautiful vase – or in other cultures a treasure… in other cultures it was a box. They told this creature not to open this vase, that everything would be wonderful and creative in their life, that they could love well and create well, but this was just the only limit that they would have, is not to open the vase. To honor the vase, and to carry the vase, and to treasure the vase, and to know that it contained a great mystery.

Well, as is true with the gods and the goddesses and is true of every human being on earth, we are also given the great insatiable gift of curiosity and this creature for many many years resisted the temptation, and resisted wanting to know what was inside the box. But finally, as is true with all human beings, and with the gods and the goddesses, limits are to be explored, or temptations are very seductive. And so the creature finally thought, “Oh, nothing bad will happen. I’ll just take a little peek.” And lifted the lid. And out came all the evils and ills into the world. And for the first time, there was both all the gifts and talents into the world and all the fears and evils and destructive energies into the world.

And it’s true in this Pandora myth, a worldwide, that something is always left at the bottom of the jar. And in Asian cultures of the world, what is left of the bottom of the jar is compassion. That’s still overlooked. And indigenous cultures of the world, what is left at the bottom of the jar that sometimes is overlooked is truth or honesty. And in Western cultures, what is overlooked and left at the bottom of the jar is hope. And it’s said that those three golden keys – compassion, hope, and truth – that keep the self together, both in Heaven and on earth. And it’s said that it’s those three golden keys that keeps all our relationships together – hope, compassion and truth. And it’s said that the whole world and every community is held together and regenerates and restores itself through compassion, hope, and truth. And so in my most significant relationships at this time, where do I find myself most hopeful? Where do I find myself most compassionate? Where do I find myself reclaiming the inherent honesty and truth and showing up as I truly am, beyond ego?

And then the last short story that goes to community and also weaves self, other and the collective together, comes from my favorite South American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez who wrote wonderful novels for which he’s won a Nobel Prize for Literature but also this wonderful collection of short stories and this is one of my very favorites because it talks about the relationship between a father and a son, and it talks about each of their own journeys, and it also talks about the world.

And this very short and last story that goes with collective work, or group work, or community work and weaves relationship work, and work with self together, is this: there was a father who was deeply engaged in wanting to solve the problems of the world, and he had a huge map of all the trouble spots of the world, and was really wanting to make the world a better place for his son, and had been lost in his study for about 2 weeks trying to solve the economic problems of the world, the poverty issues of the world, the youth issues of the world, the elder issues of the world, and it was just becoming overwhelming to him but he was committed that somehow for his son and his son’s generation, that he was going to leave it a better place.

And so he was interrupted by his son coming into his study saying, “Papa, Papa, I don’t see you anymore, I don’t see you anymore, you don’t even come to dinner anymore, you’re so lost in all your work, what are you doing?” and the father thought to himself “Oh I’m just almost at the end of solving this one important issue that will really make a difference for everyone.” And he thought to himself “Oh, what can I give him that can make us work together on this and I can spend some time with him?” and “Papa, Papa, let me help you, let me help you, I’ll bring dinner in and we can work on this together, what are you doing?” and so the father said, “Well, just see this big map on the study wall here? I’m just trying to make the world a better place so that it won’t be so hard for you.” And the little boy said “Papa, papa, we’ll do this together, how can I help?”

So the father thought, “what can I give him so that I can keep working and he can still be engaged?” So he thought “Well, I’ll just take the map down.” And he said “Oh, I know you love puzzles, why don’t we tear the world up into a great big puzzle and maybe you can work on putting it back together while I’m doing the same thing on paper?” And the little boy was discouraged and he said, “But Papa, Papa, even if we tear the world all back together I don’t even know what the world looks like, how am I gonna put this back together?” And the father said, “Well, you know, you really love puzzles, and you can put this all back together, and you know, the archway to your room is just right over there and maybe you can work over there and we can see each other and I can continue work.”

So the little boy took the great basket of all the pieces of the map and went into the other room. And he worked and he worked and two days later, he started dragging the map back in, it was all folded up and scotch-taped together, and the father was amazed because he thought it would take at least two weeks for him to do that. And he said, “Well, how did you do that?” He said, “Oh, Papa, Papa, you’ll never believe what happened, you’ll never believe what happened. See on the back here? See on the back? There’s a human being and I put the human bean back together and turned it over and the whole world came back together.”

And so again, those three stories, the Zeusa story, and the Pandora story, and the boy and the map story, pull together the three life processes – self, relationship, and community. And so where do you find yourself at this time? The heart of your self-work, or your relationship work, or your community work, or as they say in the Appalachian mountains when they first meet you and greet you – you can always tell a fifth generation Appalachian person or someone who’s lived there a long time because they will always greet you with: “What’s learning ya?” and “What’s working ya?” cause there’s always something that’s learning us and working us in time and in space and in spirit and in matter. I thank Edgar for holding time, I thank Harrison for holding space, I thank Walter for holding spirit, and I thank Peter for holding matter or creation. Thank you.

The image below was created by Avril Orloff last April. I’ve cropped it to share the images associated with the above transcript.  Please click here to see the entire drawing

connecting for community

Home page image: L.C. Nøttasen


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