Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
September 2016 - Volume 16, No. 9
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All Journeys Intersect

This is a recent phrase in my thinking. But even in its newness it’s already helpful to my wandering consciousness with an awareness that the broader our experience, the more extensive our journeying, the greater hope there is for a more inclusive and vibrant worldview.  

First, the journeys of the intellect and the work of the storyteller.

I owe much of this early enthusiasm to the late mythologist Joseph Campbell, who uncovered for us the common hero theme of so much of the world’s mythologies.   

And to my mother, who in her later years of worldwide storytelling research, shared with me her own amazement of how universal many of our story themes were. For example, a story like the Cinderella story, which we consider of European roots, could also emerge in the South Pacific and in northern Asia, long before we have awareness of any transcultural communication or travel. Researchers of a Jungian bent would speak of universal “archetypes.” But my mother was not a Jungian. She was a rather simple appearing storyteller who in her later years travelled all over the State of Iowa telling stories to anyone who would listen. And there were always eager audiences. When she died, her storytelling library had over 300 volumes, and drawers full of carefully indexed library cards (remember them, before the ubiquitous PCs?) by which she carefully cross-referenced stories and themes from around the world.  

Second, the expanded life.

My mother also influenced me by working to get me involved as a foreign exchange student, by which I was able in the late ‘50s to spend a summer in southern Germany. The AFS (The American Field Service) motto was, “Walk together, talk together, all ye peoples of the earth, and then you will have peace.” That phrase hooked her spirit, and became a touchstone of her life-long pacifism. That Summer experience was one of the formative intersectings of my own young life.

I work a lot with couples, married, pre-married, unmarried, divorcing. With so many of them, the primary glue that pulled them together, was the joy of talking (much of it for the purpose of seducing). And they recall the great comfort of time spent sharing their lives through conversation. ‘Here’s someone who will listen, is interested in me, and will share from within him or herself.’ It can be as powerful as the sexual urges. Within that is the promise of getting to know you for who you are, and who I can become when I am with you. Hidden parts of me intersect with deep parts of you, and we are both expanded. Therein is the hope and discipline of a rich married life.

The power and the loss of conversation

The best secret weapon for building or rebuilding a marriage or relationship is conversation. I tell couples to talk and talk and talk and talk. 

When that continues lost, much of the hope of the relationship will die. 

One difficulty is that when courting, both men and women often use hunting skills - in a sense to stalk and capture their game/prize. After a successful hunt, each (often at marriage) will enter ‘relationship’  mode, which for women is much like courting mode, talking and sharing. But for men, relationship mode more easily means to go off to work. There’s also a second betrayal - the woman will focus on a child, while the man still wishes to focus primarily on his partner. With this double skewed focus, there’s a much reduced opportunity to grow together, conversation diminishes, and the vital intersections of their individual life journeys are reduced, as is the energy of feeding the marriage.  

Into the über-busyness of couples, the first casualty is often conversation time. No time to talk, no time to listen, and eventually no desire for each other. And so vital intersections take place elsewhere, and the marriage itself is starved or poisoned or betrayed.

Yes, there will always be poisonous intersections. There will always be potential betrayals. But they needn’t lead to the end of hope.  

A double-edged sword

“All journeys intersect” perhaps becomes a law.  The way of the universe - we are all connected.  All energies are interconnected.  Here are two examples of how this becomes a double-edged sword:  

1)  In the New Testament letter of Paul to the Galatians (6:7) we read, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  (This was a favorite text of my Methodist preacher father, so my memory recites it in the King James Version.)

2)  An old Portuguese proverb goes, “God says, ‘take whatever you want - and then pay for it.’”

To trust the truth of one another

Here is the great hope of our world.  All things are connected.  Or as some say now, “we are a global community”.

When we are in stress, our vision narrows. Our peripheral vision diminishes or even disappears.  Each four years of our national election cycle can prove an apt illustration. With the events of “9/11” our national vision radically narrowed and we were easily led into a war (wars) that now just won’t seem to ever stop. We’ve lost our ability to see the larger intersecting of things, and the result is a gridlock of major proportions within our own culture, government and hindering our ability to add much wisdom of benefit to the larger world of vulnerable intersections. 

The broader our vision, the more we can see things fitting together in this world. And the hope is that all things are part of a “unified field” (coined by Einstein with his ‘theory of relativity’).

In our relationships, both micro and macro, personal and universal, we need to trust larger truths.  to trust the truth of others and to trust our own truths. And to do each with a humility that can transcend the temptations of greed and ego. 

I’ve heard it said that in some other culture, when someone is depressed, they are sent to live for some months in a happy village. And when someone is overly happy they are sent to live in a depressed village. It’s the intersections of separate journeys that bring healing, or balance.  A rich person needs to spend time among the poor, and the poor need to spend time among the rich. Allow all journeys to consciously intersect. Wars will more easily be able to cease. Disease will more easily find healing (the ancient medicine of balance). Marriages and families will more easily expand their vision and grow. Our various economic systems will more likely serve the common good. Communities will care for and cherish their inner diversities. Education will serve the joys of learning. Religion and ideology will be more humble in the face of the inner richness of others. (That will possibly be the hardest task.)

Yes, all journeys intersect. This is true both for good or ill. I happen to trust that when it is conscious and with a humble and open spirit, great good will emerge. When greed and ego are allowed to triumph, then certainly intersections will bring terror and destruction.  


The broader our vision, the more we can see things fitting together - close by and in the larger world.  

With a broader vision, we will see ahead, and make wiser decisions for the sake of all. We will see ahead that difficulty and struggle may be called forth. Life often renews itself through our struggles and losses - life and hope, through the intersection of our various personal and public journeys. Sometimes they are all we have left.

“Walk together, talk together, all ye peoples of the earth, and then you will have peace.” 

Therein is our hope. 

Pay attention

Comments (1)

  • And now I know where most of your great, infinite wisdom comes from.......what a wonderful Mother she must have been! She truly raised a very insightful man with much feeling for hope and healing of people and relationships of our human world! ????

    — Kelly, 9/7/2016

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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