“Stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences, and not to use or value them creatively.”
Bill Mollison

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

Keeper of Story

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Over the past year Annelieke has introduced me to Transition Network . In recent months I’ve participated in a few online meetings about information technology to test the water and see if I can take part and contribute. This is the first continuous social interaction I’ve been in touch with since retreating to life at Bhudeva. I have been impressed by some of the normative social dynamics that have been established in Transition and that make such meetings possible.

One of the strategies employed are that of “keepers”. In every meeting three people volunteer to fill three “keeper” roles (as well as a facilitator).These are (as I understand them):

  1. Keeper of Record: cares for documentation of the meeting.
  2. Keeper of Time: cares for the schedule and progress of the meeting.
  3. Keeper of Heart: cares for the well-being of the participants within the context of the meeting.

The group I am participating in has had a bumpy beginning (and still bumpy road ahead) as it struggles to find a clear identity and purpose. That struggle has manifested in numerous ways – including frustration. I am fascinated and appreciative that Transition culture invites real-time expression of such feelings, that participants have are skilled at expressing it dispassionately and that the group is able to hold and contain it … and that there is a keeper of the heart which will hopefully prevent it from being missed, ignored or being swept under the carpet.

My experience is limited to this one group and a short series of meetings that we’ve had. I don’t know what goes on in other groups, but I am assuming that such experiences are not uncommon.

The group was formed to do something that turned out (for the time being) to be at best unclear and maybe even not do-able. The more we tried to do the undo-able the more frustration came up and spread. As we worked our way through the first few meetings, a story carrying purpose came to the surface. It seemed to ease some frustration and to bring some freshness.

This got me wondering about another possible role in such meetings: “Keeper of Story”. A person who acts as a kind of navigator that may alert a group when it is steering off course, when undercurrents alter its intended path, when it has lost touch with its purpose. This person may recognize valuable information that is carried by and expressed through frustrations. This person may sense when the group begins to gravitate in a direction that may lead into frustration.

It may be a less spontaneous and more specialized role amongst the “keepers”. Almost anyone can keep time, some people can create good documentation, some are more sensitized to vibrations of heart. Few, I suspect, are able to hold and tell a story. I believe every sustainable group has a story … without a story there would not be a group.

A Keeper of Story may also require a specialized agreement and vocabulary to be able to support a group. A Keeper of Story may see and speak from a place which isn’t immediately intelligible and as such may need to be exempt, for example, from forms of debate and explanation. A Keeper of Story channels inspiration more than understanding. A Keeper of Story may redirect a group into silence rather than into another channel of conversation .. re-setting the group so that it may re-find its path.

To benefit from a Keeper of Story a group needs to have a respect for story and a story worthy of respect.

A Keeper of Story holds in her heart a clear sense of purpose and vision. She is a story-teller. Her first priority is story. A group may choose to have their Keeper of Story participate in the opening of every meeting, even if briefly, to re-state the obvious … re-tell the story which the group serves. When she is present she may rarely need to be heard. Her presence may be more powerful than her words.

 

 

 

 

 

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