“A zen koan echoed through my mind: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? And then I realized that observing the tree and how being a writer or an artist means being a witness. We witness beauty, joy, sadness, beginnings, endings—moments large and small, in worlds real and imagined. We are the witnesses that make sure the tree is heard.” — Lisa Papademetriou, Bookflow
Lisa’s words in my email inbox shook me. With pandemic life, I had shelved writing. Parenting, teaching our isolation bound kids, business managing, working, ministry zoom meetings, have taken over. Even that one solitary joy of a virtual FitFam membership is now shared with mini-me. Not a complaint but a statement. While some have too little to fill their time and binge on Netflix and cupcakes, others of us are seeing the joys of life smothered by responsibilities.
As more of my time is absorbed into other tasks, the easier it is to believe that writing really doesn’t matter. The inner critic argues that no one reads it anyways so who will notice when I no longer contribute to newsletters, to email communications, to Facebook, to that draft that is started but stagnant.
Even conversations I might have in person with someone are shelved, just like my writing, because they are not effective outside the human connection, serve little end purpose, make no ripples in the pond-world around me. And thus, documenting the things going on around me has been set aside — the choices being made, people begin lifted up, smashed down, risks taken, risks avoided.
Thus Lisa’s words struck something within. Those things I had avoided writing, those messages I had omitted, words unsaid, need to be written, need to be communicated. The situations need to be witnessed. Even if only by me to me. In the case of poor choices, to not say anything is to imply consent, that the behaviour is somehow acceptable. In spaces were someone has been wounded or there has been loss, be it a life, a job, or a dream, to remain silent leaves them burdened alone.
If no one says, writes or records anything, there is no witness and the moment is lost, or, worse — the moment drags on deeper and more potent to the one it impacts.
In this, not every moment wants to be remembered but every moment should be witnessed. To let them go is a disservice to someone even if it that someone is only me.
The Bookflow email ends with these words from Lisa, “… When we say that one person can’t change the world, remember that each person is a world—a whole universe—unto him or herself. Whenever you have an impact on someone, you are changing a world. So please keep working on discovering and telling it. Even if the person you impact is yourself.”
1 thought on “Witness”
Thank you for this Robyn. It is true and strong. I have realized that I need to bring my children alongside in witnessing this too (in appropriate ways). They feel deeply.
I want to remember this more than as a time of seclusion but be changed in ways that only come from wrestling in the moment. My eyes are open a bit wider because of your thoughts.