Today’s devotion is written by Cameron Garrett.
Music for Meditation: “Marginalia #48,” by: Masakatsu Takagi
“Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with them and they sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (NRSV 15:37-41).
“History has failed us, but no matter.” This is the first line of Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko. In an interview with The Guardian, the South Korean author describes this first sentence as her novel’s thesis statement:
“I believe history has failed almost everybody who is ordinary in the world, not just the Korean-Japanese, who are the subject of Pachinko. I am also arguing that the discipline of history has failed. It is not that historians aren’t doing their jobs but rather that the memory of history has been reconstructed by the elite, because the overwhelming majority of ordinary people rarely leave sufficient primary documents; they do not have others recording their lives in real time.
The phrase ‘but no matter’ is a statement of defiance. It doesn’t matter that history has failed us because ordinary people have persisted anyway. This idea gives me an enormous amount of strength and hope as a writer because I am an ordinary person. Those of us who may be women of color, immigrants, or working class aren’t often meant to be people who write novels about ideas, but no matter.”
Pachinko is a work of historical fiction that tells the stories of a few folks who occupy the marginalia of our stained-glass reconstitution of history. Her characters’ voices take heart and sing from the quiet lines of grout and stone that hold our mosaic memory together. And the result is the ordinary made sublime. Another author, Colum McCann, calls this movement the democracy of storytelling: “I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries. To step into the shoes of others in order to be able to step back into our own, through our stories, is a powerful and healing experience.”
The world is full of stories. We all each of us have our stories to tell. And we have the deepest need to listen to them and be listened to. That’s the dignity and discipline of listening. I’d like to invite you to practice your listening with the few lines of scripture I’ve highlighted above. Read the text slowly. Turn over each line the way you’d savor the last piece of your favorite kind of candy. And pay particular attention to the gaps in the narrative. Listen for the voices that continue off the page, below the surface of what’s written, behind the main stage of the sentences’ construction. Be an explorer of the text, not a tourist. Remember that a story begins long before its first word and ends long after its last.
What did you hear from the text?
Whose voice could you hear loudest?
What has your listening made you curious about?
Have you heard a story to be told?
What are your thoughts, comments, questions?