Narratives of Care: The Social Echo of Community Transformation by John Paul Lederach
Response by Christian Early
Thank you John Paul for a beautiful and moving presentation.
To quote Sue Johnson “And so we come back, always come back…in religion, in mysticism, in romance, and in families…to love.” I suggested in my response to Sue that attachment theory is not only a theory of growth, but also of transformation. What John Paul has given us today is a good reason to believe that that is actually so.
I want to be absolutely clear on this point because the move that John Paul made just now has not been made before, at least not that I’m aware. Not that I really know the conflict transformation literature, but like I said I’m a philosopher so I feel perfectly comfortable crashing some other disciplinary party. Like Annmarie sometimes says to me “you put your narcissism to good use!” So, as far as I’m aware, this is a new contribution. How did John Paul do it? He listened deeply, and we listened with him, to the story of Balluji whose song transformed enemies into friends.
John Paul notes that there are conceptual bridges between attachment theory and conflict transformation theory, and those are all true. What he didn’t mention is that there is a reason why attachment theory and conflict transformation theory have not made contact until today. A conflict situation does not fit the usual attachment research dyads. Attachment research deals with the mother-infant dyad and the partner-partner dyad. But Balluji’s story is one in which there is a forest encroacher-forest user dyad characterized by enmity. That’s how the relationship starts out.
And yet, they share a remarkably similar feature: a bodied condition of danger shifts in a moment in time to a condition of safety. In other words, relational connections are being forged, and those connections are shifting the emotional landscape, the internal working models, and opening up a world of possibilities. Surprise, surprise…we’ve seen that thing before. Now this really shouldn’t come as a surprise because I will bet that all of us here today have had at least one experience of encountering someone that we perceived as belonging to the category of enemy, only to have that category be blown up by the encounter. We know this. And attachment theory gives us a handle on understanding what is going on.
And what is going on, as John Paul says, is an invisible but present vibration of love. The storied song of Balluji becomes in effect a singing bowl, a container holding a safe space. It holds us. It surrounds us. We tune in. We resonate. Bonds are made. We know this. We experienced it together yesterday as Ken led us in song. I don’t know about you, but I felt like hugging people. I had a hugging instinct that was very strong. Our brains must have been dripping with Oxytocin. This space became one giant singing bowl, which is a miracle because I don’t know about you but I have been fighting this space the entire time. But in song, the space was changed in a moment in time. We have experienced this. Love is the bubbling and rippling inside the space, the rise of resonance and expansion out into the world. Love embodies the felt vibration of shared humanity. I’m just quoting John Paul here.
Let me quote someone else. Luke, the evangelist, tells us that
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”