The Gift to Listen, the Courage to Hear

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Writers are often outcasts, heretics and marginalised. Rather it was, as Kafka put it, the axe that smashes the frozen sea within. But the Brisbane Writers festival, with its decision to drop Germaine Greer and Bob Carr as invited guests, appears to be a cryogenic chamber where the sea can stay perennially frozen, prejudices perfectly preserved forever, unchallenged, unquestioned, uninformed and unformed.

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The BWF has form here. Anything beyond this minimum is decreed a winning appearance. No one has ever suggested to me that I must stay to a brief or risk punishment. When the speech finally appeared, also in the Guardian , it was hard to see how it did such a thing, and even critics conceded it was far more nuanced than it had been attacked as on social media. By then though it was too late. For Shriver, the talk was about the damage identity politics could do to writing. For her critics it was about belittling the movement against cultural appropriation.

Whichever position you took, the debate was important.

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Shriver had done what you would think a festival would long for all its guests to do. But instead the BWF betrayed Shriver when she was at her most vulnerable, suffering attacks both in person, being shouted at as a racist at the festival, and online, where the commentary was predictably one of mounting savagery.

Rather than remaining above the social media fury, none of it based on what Shriver had said, the BWF poured fuel on to it by suggesting Shriver had broken some unspoken covenant. Instead of pointing out Shriver was a writer doing what a writer should, by not defending her right to say what she said, this made the vast amount of hate being levelled at Shriver seem justified and justifiable.

Earlier this year came the Junot Diaz affair. Further allegations of verbal bullying and demeaning behaviour were made by other women. Diaz cancelled the rest of his tour and returned to America.

First, I had to learn how to listen

None of this proves Diaz is a good person. But nor does it prove he is a bad one. There were allegations, and there remain allegations.

Diaz may be a monster, or he may not. But the allegations remain, and they remain allegations. As for so many in positions of power, the moment to reckon with the consequences of past behaviour has arrived.

Such conversations have never been more timely. We may ask what on earth was supportive and safe for Diaz in those words? Who had the power at that moment — the writer, who had publicly confessed to being raped as a child only a few months before, or the festival?

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The Wheeler Centre, meanwhile, emailed ticket holders to announce that Diaz had also cancelled a scheduled appearance in Melbourne with similarly self-serving cant:. None of this is to argue for or against Junot Diaz. And what if the mob have it wrong? And now we have the bizarre case of Germaine Greer and Bob Carr. The unspoken truth of every writers festival is that the topic is always unsuitable for the writer.

go here Topics are understood by all concerned as at best a jumping off point to a general conversation. Exactly when did the Brisbane Writers festival become the Brisbane Corporate festival? We listen to each other. We give open-hearted listening and acceptance to each person participating in the circle.


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What a gift to offer and what a gift to receive! Seventeen years ago, I was led to these retreats and I keep coming back, as I continue to explore who I am in this mysterious life. Find out about local programs in Vermont from WholeHeart. The paths on the property that lead out in either direction are quite magical, winding their way over the roots of the ancient cedar trees that somehow grow strong and sure on the edges of the high cliffs of the bay. I love to find a spot high up, beside a cedar, and just listen to what the birds and the water and the trees have to say.

I have watched transformations happen for myself and for fellow Courage members year after year. These circles have helped me find my way back into the joy and inspiration of being an elementary school teacher. Sitting in Circles of Trust has changed me and changed my life in so many ways. My personal voice has come alive, both in my work and beyond. I think of the wall quotes again.