Where Do You Start?
"Some people make promises. Bob Kanegis delivers!”
You can quote Jerry Brown, the once Governor of California on that. In the 90’s Jerry went through a period when he described himself as a ‘recovering politician.’ He bought a fairly large building in Oakland- close to the downtown waterfront and turned it into his house and a community meeting space. One of the great features of the place was what became known as the Oakland table, where wonderful meals and conversations took place on matters shallow and deep. On the very deep end was a 10 or 12 session study group that met weekly to plumb the meaning and implications of Martin Buber’s classic, I and Thou. I’d heard that this group was forming through my friend Tom, and together we drove down to the We The People Building to introduce ourselves to Jerry and see if we were worthy candidates to could join the group.
Jerry met us at the door and got right down to business. No small talk. Jerry and Tom shook hands and Jerry asked Tom what he did for a living. When Tom replied that he taught philosophy, Jerry pounced on him with questions.
“You teach philosophy? Tell me. Where do you start? Do you start with the Pre-Socratics? Do you start with Plato? With the Cave?
As the questions kept coming I became increasingly wary of what was in store for me? I decided that what was needed was some sort of preemptive move. So I moved forward prepared. I stuck out my paw, and said, “ HI, I’m Bob Kanegis. I’m a storyteller. I start with Once Upon A Time.”
Tom and I were invited to join group. This was during the time that I have come to call my Dung Beetle Initiation. For a few years, as I was simultaneously developing my storytelling craft and business, I drove my pick up truck and delivered , tons of rich compost to thousands of small yards and gardens all over the Bay Area. Every day I'd meet half a dozen or more 'strangers,' deliver the compost or soil, and often as not, hear a brief story from the client. It was further proof for me that everyone has a story and needs to be heard.
My first contribution to the study group was not a clever interpretation of a Buber passage. It was 3 cubic yards of Walt Whitman Blend, an organic compost, deposited in the driveway and hauled up in buckets to the rooftop garden of the We The People building. I promised I’d bring it and so I did. So yes, Bob Kanegis delivers
As for Buber's I and Thou it was challenging read, but it was where I began to really understand and appreciate the idea that we have two central stories... the Story of Me and the Story of We.