Epiphany 2012: Context is Everything


Words are only one way of communicating

Photo © Jesse Kunerth/iStockPhoto

by Ellen Turnbull

Epiphany explorations. Aptly named. Exploring what words really mean when they are spoken.

Marcus Borg tells us that context is everything. A hot babe on the beach, a hot day in August, a hot shot at the hockey rink. Same word, different meaning.

So words spoken in a Mediterranean country in the first century don’t mean the same as they might today. Marcus and Richard Rohrbaugh have developed this theme of context and the meaning of words throughout their presentations here.

But words are only one way of communicating, and according to folks who study these things, are a small part of how we get our message (both consciously and unconsciously) across to one another. I was struck by this during the presentation by Puente Theatre.

Puente Theatre (puente means bridge in Spanish) seeks to educate about aspects of the immigrant experience, and at Epiphany they chose to do this by having people from the audience tell their stories. Then the multi-ethnic male and female actors in the troupe interpreted the story in dramatic form.

Megumi Matsuo-Saunders told her story of how she had been widowed, left with a young child, and, after grieving, decided to go to Canada from Japan to learn English and study Christian Education. I was engaged and empathetic as she told her story. But when the four actors began to act out her loss, her grief, her confusion, her happiness and anger, I found myself moved to tears (and laughter – these guys are very, very funny).

I suddenly appreciated once again that experiential learning is more powerful than simply hearing words, and that somehow drama enables a person in the audience to experience what is happening on stage at a deeper level. The actors used a few words in their presentations, and they also spoke in gibberish (very effectively) but it was mostly being able to feel, through them, some of what Megumi had felt that gave me a better appreciation and understanding of what immigrants go through. It opened my heart.

Ellen Turnbull is the Editor for Wood Lake and insight, and a seeker of the holy in everyday life. She has an abiding interest in the embodied spirituality and interconnection of all beings.

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Categories: Christian Life, Ellen Turnbull, Experiential Learning, Peace, Justice, and Equality

Author:Wood Lake Publishing

At Wood Lake Publishing we are passionate about supporting and encouraging an emerging form of Christianity, which is rooted in ancient wisdom and attentive to the movement of spirit in our day. Visit us online at woodlakebooks.com

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2 Comments on “Epiphany 2012: Context is Everything”

  1. Donna
    January 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Great to see a blog that features Megumi — who has been teaching us all for quite awhile– and also underlines the importance of both context and experiential learning. Important aspects of our spirituality.

  2. January 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Thanks for your insights, Ellen. I missed the troupe but took in Borg and so much more, and can say Epiphany Explorations has been transformative for me and so many others. I’m a poet and I see poetry, because of its roots in oral traditions, as a form of dramatic enactment too that can move us to laughter and tears when well done.

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