Letter From the Editors
Beginnings can be hard things to pin down. Our journeys nearly always shift our gazes to their destinations. By their end, our minds fill and brim over with questions:
- What has been achieved?
- How will it be measured?
- Where do we go from here?
The political theorist Hannah Arendt spent much of her life after surviving the Holocaust studying beginnings. She noted that in the modern age, we so often look at our lives as gaps between who we’ve been and who we’re trying to be. We tend to be affirmed of our value in the world only to the extent that we stand our ground in combat with our past and future. In this way, we become task-oriented, working to satisfy an arbitrary lack, crossing the items off a checklist, yet never feeling fulfilled.
Arendt urged instead a life of many beginnings; those that are forged with clear intentions yet remain open to the spontaneous. She argued for beginnings that connect us to our underlying and pervasive pull toward that liminal space between question and answer; beginnings full of trials, not battles, unforeseen invitations, not ultimatums, and most importantly, direct lines to the wild unknown. What we, as practitioners, families, and communities are re-learning is that the natural world and all of its cycles holds us all together. These cycles act as throughlines, reminding us of their ongoing and unfolding dance; one that is firmly rooted in a shared history. They show us a beginning that is perpetually reborn.
In a recent correspondence with Joseph Lazenka of the School of Lost Borders, he shared a poem from Joanna Macy’s translation of Rilke’s The Book of Hours. As we read it something came alive in our heads and hearts. We knew immediately it would need to find a home in our first letter from the editors:
“I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.”
So let us begin by exclaiming: We want to follow this field to its source.
We want to increase both the stakes and legitimacy of rites of passage in the world. By delving into the issues we face, the work we do, and opening up a conversation, we can bring this work to ever widening circles of engagement and influence. Through Confluence, we intend to shine a light on the old ways while experimenting with the new, coming out somewhere in between them. We humbly offer this journal as a space in which to grapple with the ideas that compel us, not simply for ourselves but for our young. In it, let us wrestle with life cycles, the thresholds between them, and the challenges of building thriving, interdependent communities. Let Confluence be a vehicle for the unforeseen and sometimes overlooked conversations just waiting to be had.
Let our work be predicated on the acceptance of these facts: nothing is stagnant; everything is in motion; nothing is beyond improvement, or at least continued examination. Let each issue be a careful and creative play, an open invitation to dialogue. Let it engage in a consideration and reimagination of diverse perspectives that may not suggest answers, but offer insight. And let us, in this endeavor, if we’re anything, be slow. Let us take our time, be immersed, work for the slow burn, and allow for a meandering yet purposeful walk in the shoes of others, for what we might glean in the walking.
In this first issue, you’ll find poetry and prose, academic papers and artistry, all of which tackling the question: What are the pressing issues in contemporary rites of passage? From an examination of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah to freeform poetry on the powerful and sometimes contradictory nature of the call, our inaugural contributions are fierce, open, and many.
It has been our great privilege to have so many contributors usher us, or lift us rather, out of our daily contexts and into the liminal spaces of their own. We mark this moment of convergence between creative minds and willing hands, who through grace and dedication, offered themselves to a rigorous and passionate collaboration. For each of them, we are deeply thankful, as we are for you, dear reader.
So let us end our beginning by invoking our intention that the ancestors and those yet born may find a voice here, that we may “sing [them] as no one ever has,” and that our work and movement stream through ever widening channels.
Confluence Journal Editorial Team