IDENTITY: The Practice of Sharing Our Stories

Theme for November

The intention of the themed year is to help Unitarian Universalists build a robust spiritual and ethical vocabulary. The themes are points of departure for religious liberals seeking to think, speak and act theologically, prophetically and prayerfully. The themes reclaim religious language, casting old terms in a new key to deepen spiritual grounding and sharpen moral reasoning. More at: wbuuc.org/themes or sign up for a circle at wbuuc.org/classes.

Download 2018.10 Identity: The Practice of Sharing Our Stories pdf

QUESTIONS

  • Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
  • How does identity shape the stories we tell about ourselves? How do stories shape our identities?
  • What is the same and what has changed about your identity over the course of your life?
  • Can we ever truly know who or what we are?

 

QUOTES

Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.
—Octavia Butler

An identity is questioned only when it is menaced, as when the mighty begin to fall, or when the  wretched begin to rise, or when the stranger enters the gates, never, thereafter, to be a stranger. Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which  case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned. This trust in one’s nakedness is all that  gives one the power to change one’s robes.
—James Baldwin

 

POETRY

Poet Sujata Bhatt, an emigrant from India,
expresses the challenges of fusing her
identities in the poem ‘The Search for My Tongue.’

You ask me what I mean
by saying I have lost my tongue.
I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth,
and lost the first one, the mother tongue,
and could not really know the other,
the foreign tongue.
You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place you had to
speak a foreign tongue,
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream,

munay hutoo kay aakhee jeebh aakhee bhasha
may thoonky nakhi chay
parantoo rattray svupnama mari bhasha pachi aavay chay
foolnee jaim mari bhasha nmari jeebh
modhama kheelay chay
fullnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh
modhama pakay chay

it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside.
Everytime I think I’ve forgotten,
I think I’ve lost the mother tongue,
it blossoms out of my mouth.

 

Hi  I’m  Jon………..No—Jonathan
Wait—Jonathan  Rodríguez
Hold  on—Jonathan Rodríguez
My Name, Two names, two worlds
The duality of my identity like two sides of the same coin
With two worlds, there should be plenty of room
But where do I fit?
Where can I sit?
Is this seat taken? Or is that seat taken?
There never is quite enough room is there?
Two names, Two worlds
Where do I come from?
Born in the Washington Heights of New York City
But raised in good ol’ Connecticut
The smell of freshly mowed grass, autumn leaves
Sancocho, Rice and Beans
The sound from Billy Joel’s Piano Keys
And the rhythm from Juan Luis Guerra
I’m from the struggle for broken dreams
Of false promises
Of houses with white picket fences
And 2.5 kids
The mountains and campos de la Republica Dominicana
And the mango trees
I’m not the typical kid from suburbia
Nor am I a smooth Latin cat
My head’s in the clouds, my nose in a comic book
I get lost in the stories and art
I’m kinda awkward—so talkin’ to the ladies is hard
I listen to Fernando Villalona and Aventura every chance I get,
But don’t make me dance Merengue, Bachata
Or Salsa—I don’t know the steps
I’ve learned throughout these past years

I am a mix of cultures, a mix of races
“Una Raza encendida,
Negra, Blanca y Taina”

You can find me in the parts of a song, en una cancion
You can feel my African Roots en la Tambora
My Taino screams en la guira
And the melodies of the lyrics are a reminder of my beautiful Spanish heritage
I am African, Taino and Spanish
A Fanboy, an athlete, a nerd, a student, an introvert
I’m proud to say: Yo soy Dominicano
I’m proud to say, I am me
I am beginning to appreciate that I am
Una bella mezcla
I am beginning to see that this world is also a beautiful mix
Of people, ideas and stories.
Is this seat taken?
Or is that seat taken?
Join me and take a seat,
Here we’ll write our own stories
—Jonathan  Rodríguez

 

READINGS & EXCERPTS

Jamie Sams, author of Earth Medicine: Ancestors Way of Harmony for Many Moons, says Story Telling is a wonderful medicine because they allow us to find ourselves without someone pointing a finger at us. We take what we need from the story to heal ourselves. The story telling Sams does helps people feel more whole, which, in turn, enables them to find inspiration, bring forth their best talents, and help make the world a better place. She wrote this one for children: “While the river moved over rounded stones, and Night Hawk circles in the twilight, the young mother whispered to the child who suckled at her breast: You are the blessed that fell from the stars and took root in my heart, little one. You rested inside of my body, and I carried you there for nine moons. It gave me joy to carry the burden of such love. I toiled for many hours to give you birth. And finally, the earth mothers magnitude threw you into your earth walk. Now that you are here, I want you to know how my heart sings. The love I bear your father is the stuff of dreams. He has walked the path of strength and has been strong enough to share his dreams with me as well as his tears. He has lent me his courage. And I have respected him with all that I am. Together we have walked many trails and have faced each challenge heart to heart. In you, I see his courage, his determination, his laughing eyes, and his curiosity. In you, I see my gentleness, my compassion, and my desire to live life with joy. There is a love between your parents that fills each day with song. I want you to remember always that you are, and will forever be, a product of that love.”

 

From House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

In English my name [Esperanza Cordero] means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, song like sobbing.

It was my great-grandmother’s name and now it is mine. She was a horse woman too, born like me in the Chinese year of the horse – which is supposed to be bad luck if you’re born female-but I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexican, don’t like their women strong.

My great-grandmother. I would’ve liked to have known her, a wild horse of a woman, so wild she wouldn’t marry. Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That’s the way he did it. And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but don’t want to inherit her place by the window.

At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth. But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver, not quite as thick as sister’s name-Magdalena-which is uglier than mine. Magdalena who at least can come home and become Nenny. But I am always Esperanza.

I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees. Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X. Yes. Something like Zeze the X will do.

 

MUSIC

Born This Way by Lady Gaga - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BsLd4Y060Q

It doesn’t matter if you love him,
or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

“There’s nothing wrong with
loving who you are”
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause god makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag ‒ just be a queen [x3]
Don’t be!
Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (Hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (Love needs faith)

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause god makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set

Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi
Lesbian, transgender life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to be brave

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause god makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

I was born this way hey!
Same DNA, but born this way