DeltaDays: Walking strong in two or more worlds

After feasting on Subway sandwiches, many Mines students took the opportunity to sit in Bunker auditorium last Wednesday, January 19, to experience the stories of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. As a part of the series of lectures given for DeltaDays, she focused her talk on “Walking Strong in Two or More Worlds.”

Dr. Estés came from families of both immigrants and refugee camps. Through her mixed heritage and adoption, the poet has many cultures which she embraces and strives to keep alive. “Every group I belonged to, by blood or by adoption, has a rich history of oral traditions, of stories, of dances, of songs, of healing methods, that they poured into me.”

The title for her discussion referred how she unites multiple cultures in the way she lives. But the different worlds can be seen as physical and spiritual as well. According to Estés, “Walking in two worlds means the internal world of how we think and feel. And also the other world. The world of work, of politics and culture.”

Estés focused her talk on retelling the stories in her life from the different people she has met and the wisdom she has gained from them. She began with a story about her adopted father, a Hungarian man could not speak clear English. Their neighbors would often make fun of his speech and mocked him for his lack of education. When Estés would ask why he did not get angry at their remarks, she remembers, “My father said, ‘No, no. Just because they insult you does not mean you insult them back.’” Then a young girl, her father’s tolerance struck Estés. She deeply respects him for his tolerance, “He has this ability not to turn hatred into hatred.”

But, while tolerance is essential in combating discrimination, Estés made it clear that being angry is okay. “Anger is the first stage of revolution,” she proclaimed. “You can’t go to sleep when there is such great injustice.” She expects there to be a period for anyone who is discriminated against to feel hurt and victimized.

The important thing, according to Estés, is for the period of anger to come to an end. “You get up there and rant and rant and rant. But if you don’t bring ideas, if you don’t bring solutions, then you’re back in the early stages of just being angry.”

As a guide for how to progress beyond the stage of anger, Estés refers to what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. In it, he describes four steps of effective nonviolence. Estés guided her audience through the first step, “[King] said, ‘First thing, get the facts.’ Not how you’re feeling, not what you thought he did or she said. Actual, verifiable facts.” Next, King asks his readers to negotiate with those who are oppressing you. Instead, Estés often sees that “a lot of people get mad and shout. And they forget the negotiation part.”

Similar to what King faced, there are times when negotiation alone will not bring about acceptance from people. Then the third step he described in the letter is self-purification. This is when you refocus on your goals and strive to remain nonviolent and compassionate. Estés stressed, “It’s thoughtfulness that helps us with purification. We can do it, it just takes time.”

The final step in King’s nonviolent process was to take direct action. He did this with marches and sit-ins. Although this was dangerous for everyone involved, King and his supporters hoped it would reopen the door to negotiation so they could help change the south.

In sharing the wisdom of King, Estés hoped it would be carried on. She told the audience, “Being the icon of a movement is dangerous. But the movement doesn’t die when the icon passes away.”

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