Echolocation

Earlier this month I co-hosted with Quanita Roberson a group of faith community people. There were 25 of us together for a day of regeneration — finding connection, sharing insights, and animating purpose.

As is so often the case, we began our group process with a circle of people invited to speak their name and one of the things that they most appreciate about their church. Its 25 people taking turns, passing a talking piece to contribute a few words and images. That initial circle is so much about centering relationship in appreciation and passion.

As we got through a third of the circle voices, people began sharing their contribution with the statement, “I echo what has been said.” Then they would offer a few more words. It got to be funny to hear the frequency of echos.

All of that “echoing” language got me thinking about bats and whales, the way that they send out a sound that then returns to them, thus helping them to know where they are. Bats and whales have sophisticated navigation systems, honed through years of evolution, rooted in echo.

I suggested it to the group — when we come together with our stories, our questions, our wonders together, there is a way that we are practicing echolocation just like the bats and the whales. We put out a truth from what we see or know, and with the willingness to listen, we watch for the ways that it comes back to us. We ourselves echolocate based on what we share. We help others locate by reflecting back affirmation or difference. The waters, or the sky of all of this — the medium for signal locating — is our passion for a cause. With the church people it was so much about animating a feeling and some direction together. It was so much about finding each other in the water, or in the nearby skies.

I would suggest that getting lost together is part of living. No shame needed for getting lost, though in so many contexts, it is applied. Rather, we can do wonders together by navigating together the lost / confusion and by navigating together the found / clarity. Not all of life is a straight line. Perhaps very little of it. The skills needed in community are more than linear minutia. The skills needed are also this honed ability to find ourselves in relation to others and to our deeply inner selves.

I’m glad for the experience with this faith community. And for all of the stirring imagination and fruitfulness of humans in echolocation.

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