As human beings we move from one reality to another, crossing so many bridges that we become bridges ourselves: between countries, between cultures, between periods of time, between our own memories.
Most of the time we simply keep moving.
Sometimes synchronicity, the meaningful connection between seemingly unrelated events, stops us in our tracks and asks us to reevaluate and reinterpret how we see our lives and their connection to others around us. The Other Immigrants by Saba Husain is a revealing expression of one of those moments.
Passing through the soaring architecture of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, in the footsteps of travelers and immigrants from many lands, Saba is transported back to her home in Lahore, Pakistan. It was a whisper carried across the famed Whispering Gallery that took her back to childhood under the lemon trees. She hints with an eloquent simplicity at a sense of continuity between her younger self and the self that now makes a home in this distant land. It seems, almost, that she could step across time and into the streets of Lahore, taking us with her.
Saba Husain, published in Natural Bridge Journal #34, Fall 2015
Note the path that winds its way through Saba’s words. How exhilarating and humbling to experience a moment in which the pattern of your life reveals itself!
Synkroniciti’s latest Open Mic was a wonderful, intimate conversation about building and being bridges in our communities, families and world.
On Saturday, February 20th, eight souls (seven human, one cat) took on the vulnerability of sharing things that separate and connect us. We were diverse in terms of race, culture and circumstances, and we truly enjoyed coming together to speak to and learn from each other. We enjoyed it so much that the night didn’t wrap up until after 9:30, five hours after the posted start time. That was a new record for synkroniciti!
Most of this time was spent in open and unscripted conversation, as we shared ourselves and our backgrounds. Our tiny group was no stranger to prejudice and challenge, be it racial tensions within family and community, making a home in a new country, clearing socio-economic hurdles, or dealing with physical and mental issues that mark us as different. Digging down deep, we found some rough edges and we didn’t shy away from them. It doesn’t seem right to throw these things up in great detail here; they were bonding experiences that are meant for the safe place we have built at synkroniciti. There are, however, a few things I will narrate for you briefly.
As a warm-up, we had a great time creating an oral story that passed from person to person around the room. We told of twin sisters who, in celebration of their sixteenth birthday, fearfully crossed a magic fairy bridge only to find their deceased grandparents ready to tell them a profound truth about life over a delicious breakfast. Grandpa exhorted them to find and follow their passion in life and grandma ended by saying, “That’s nice dear, I just wanted to remind them to always eat a good breakfast.” None of us had any control over where the story went or what genre it strayed into. We had to release our personal expectations to allow it to be breathed into life.
Saba read “The Other Immigrants”, inspired by a trip to Grand Central Station in New York City. In this lovely, spare poem, Saba thinks of the countless people who have travelled through Grand Central Terminal to make a new life in the United States and remembers growing up in Lahore, Pakistan. As human beings we move from one reality to another, crossing so many bridges that we become bridges ourselves: between countries, between cultures, between periods of time, between our own memories. This beautiful poem appeared in Natural Bridge Journal and you can read it here.
I presented “To a Dancer”, which you can read here. It deals with a cultural divide– a young woman watching a dance desires to join in, but is held back by prejudice because the dancer is not of her race. The physical truth of the dancer’s body, the movements and the reactions inspired by those movements wordlessly reach across the gap between cultures, beckoning to her. It is a wonderful and terrifying thing to be a bridge.
“Reverse Psychology” was inspired by an interaction Michelle had with a friend who, in a moment of zeal and religious dogma, attempted to tell her how she should believe and live. These moments never yield positive results, only frustration and division. They destroy and block bridges, which can only be built by two sides listening and reaching out to one another. We have to be careful that our bridge building doesn’t turn into a siege.
Neil, Buki and I want to thank Ariel, Kelly, Louis, Michelle and Saba for wonderful evening and for being open to sharing so much of themselves.
The next Open Mic will happen on Saturday, April 9 at 4:30pm and will be titled “In the Garden”. Hope to see you there!