Stone Soup 2013 – Ward Mailliard

Ward: We have developed a ritual over the years called “Stone Soup.” The basic story line, is very simple; a Shaman, which I have drawn here – I’m getting good at androgynous figures, could be male could be female (Laughter) comes into the village, and this is a village that is starving. There is a great famine in the land, and the Shaman comes along, and he or she has a magic stone? Well the Shaman comes into the village and sees that the people are starving, and takes out his or her magic stone, and says, “I have a magic stone.” If you get a pot, and you put some water in it and put a fire under it, I will put the stone in the pot and it will feed the village. Well, when people are desperate, they will try anything. So they got the pot, and lit a fire under it, and the Shaman took the magic stone and dropped it in the pot. Then everybody sat down to see what would happen.

As they were sitting there, the Shaman said, “Well you know what really makes this soup tasty, is if someone had an onion, just to flavor it.” Somebody said, “I have a onion, I have kept it under my house, because it was no good, I mean one onion, what are you going to do? So I’ll bring it.” They went and got the onion, and dropped it in the pot. A little time went by, and the Shaman said, well you know what will make it even tastier, is if someone had a potato. Actually a few people had potatoes that they had been hiding under their houses, because the potato by itself wouldn’t feed them very long, and they put the potatoes in. Well this went on through any multiple numbers of your favorite vegetables (laughter) and by the time everyone had taken what they had been conserving, what they couldn’t figure out how to use on their own, and put it in the pot, a very thick broth stew was made and the village was fed, and it was fed for several days.

The stone as I have come to conceive it is, “The question that hasn’t been asked,” and a healthy community always welcomes the stranger on the margins of the community, because the stranger is always bringing something new that isn’t already in the community. Many communities might think of that as disruptive – “Keep the strangers out!” – Not seeing the gift that the stranger brings, but when the magic stone – the question – goes into the pot, it by itself is not sufficient, but all of the gifts that the community holds in abeyance, ideas, thoughts, that they hold in abeyance are brought together in the communal dialogue, in the pot of deep reflection, and heated by the creative fire, as Angeles would say – “It is the creative fire that requires no wood.” The community then is nourished and reinvigorated, because when we create these boundaries of isolation, whether we do it as individuals, where we become isolated from the community because we in fact are the stranger. We may do it internally because we are the stranger within our self, and we don’t see our gifts, or what we have to contribute.


The process really is one of coming together in a dialogue to bring the gifts, both the unknown and the known, the familiar and the unfamiliar, and to bring those in to the collective consciousness where the creative conversation, which is driven by the creative fire, “The fire that takes no wood,” and that produces something that nourishes, and re-invigorates the community.

So each of you have a book and a stone, the book is yours too keep – we will be playing with that a little bit later on. Your job today is to arrive, to relax, to connect okay? To enjoy, so this is “soak time” for us. We have nothing in mind for you. There is no predictable outcome you are supposed to get, okay? So if you came here with the idea that you were going to learn something, oops! (Laughter) You’ll learn what you are ready to learn in the way you learn it. True learning is always unpredictable. One of the problems with school is that it is being driven by this incredible thirst; I would say lust for predictable outcomes. The real learning is unpredictable. So not to take anything away from any subject area that you attached to, or content that you love; I love my content, you know, but one of the things that I have learned over the years is process and relationship matter a whole lot more, and get remembered a lot longer than any particular content.

So you have this stone, and the job here is to think about as Angeles said, what really, really, really truly, truly, truly, matters to you. If we could sit for a little bit and think about that, and then there are some pens out here and if you could write a word, or whatever you can fit on your stone, front and back for those of you who have a lot to say, and then this is the really hard part of the ritual. This is actually a ritual for the ritually impaired, of which I am one. I have a high resistance to having to do anything where I might have to extend myself out in ways in which I become shy and uncomfortable. So the full extent of your commitment will be after you write on the stone, is to place it in the circle, and then go back and sit down. If that is too hard, then you can just put it in your pocket (Laughter), and then at the break you can drop it in to the circle, okay?