The Ponder Effect | Who & Why?
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Who & Why?

 

Here’s the long version of it. I apologize: I’m never very good at the short version.

WHO?

Honestly, I would rather ignore the Who? and leave myself out of it, because what I mean for this to be is a collective. But since so much of what is written here is first person and because I believe that we are most deeply ourselves when we share our stories with vulnerability and honesty, then I will tell you who I am—and more importantly how this came to be.

 

I used to teach high school English, before I became a mother. The curriculum in the school where I taught was centered around a set of “Core Skills,” which included (among others) to observe and to question. Leading a discussion-based class, I understood that one of the best things we could do for one another was to bring a good question to the table.

 

When I left teaching and began to raise children of my own, I held onto the idea of core skills and began to ponder what the core skills of humanity would be. As in, if we could create a list of the core skills that would enable us to live a meaningful, full life, what would be on that list? To trust, to laugh, to listen, to forgive. The list was hard to contain, but on it would undoubtedly be those same two skills from our high school curriculum: to observe and to question.

 

As a new mom, I witnessed quickly that my children—young as they were—came by these two skills naturally. Anyone who has been around kids knows this. They notice everything and ask a million questions. One of the things I pondered anew was the connection the Bible makes between being child-like and entering the kingdom of God.* Perhaps, this was it. To access the kingdom of God, which I understand to be the divine space among, within, and beyond us, we need to notice and we need to question. In doing so, we are able to move out of our confined self and access what is other, what is deeper, what is collective.

WHICH LEADS TO THE WHY?

I have always loved the Henry Miller quote, The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. Seeking to tap into this awareness both requires of us and illuminates within us the need to be opened. I started a blog in 2012 called Ephaphatha, which means to be opened, but I couldn’t sustain it. I think because I didn’t have it quite right. I was missing two key ingredients: questions and a collective. The idea for Ponder Effect followed in the fall of 2016. Like most of us, l was seeking my purpose and trying to be opened to what the universe was telling me, and then I had the lightbulb moment. It’s all about the questions.

 

That’s also about the time that we as a people stopped listening to each other. Our politics reached its current peak of divisiveness. Discourse crumbled into tweets. The Internet became a forum for barking and bashing. I didn’t really want to be another voice adding to the noise and have feared that. I still do. But I also understand that—as I said at the beginning—this isn’t about me. This is about “communal pondering” a term that I heard months after I conceived of and named this project. I listen to a lot of On Being by Krista Tippett and in February 2017, she interviewed poet Marilyn Nelson who talks about “communal pondering.” Krista’s response was: “Even the phrase ‘communal pondering’, I feel like that’s what we need as a nation right now. Right? We have no idea how to do that.”

 

Well, I have an idea. I don’t know if it will work, but this is my attempt to help us develop that very thing we need: a collective place to ponder.

 

Varina

 

*In this piece, I reference Christianity because that is my faith context, though I intend for this to be a place open and welcoming of all or no faiths. That is vital or this project won’t succeed.