Sunday, September 13, 2015

Report Worldwide Biography Conference 2015

In June, 2015, four of us from Canada attended the 8th Worldwide Biography Conference. This was a rich gathering of 150 people from 28 countries. This year the conference was organized by a group of ten, mostly younger people. The quality of their preparation and carrying of the conference was inspiring, lively and at times included spontaneous changes. These biography conferences are largely experiential, with opportunities to choose a master class, to hear about research from each other, to meet in small groups and in a larger plenum format, with some excellent keynote speakers. The theme of this year's conference was “Wounds and Wonders.” It was particularly relevant to the theme that the location was near Dresden, Germany, a place where wounds run deep, but also new life, a rebuilding gesture is very strong. We all spent one day in Dresden visiting various sites and museums. We heard a deeply moving talk by Axel-Schmidt-Godelitz who lives locally and creates and facilitates biography talks between individuals living in East and West Germany.  It gave a clear picture of how biography can bring us to a very human level with each other,  where judgment is suspended, where forgiveness is possible, sometimes simply through sharing and listening to each other's story.
The presence of Christine Gruwez as a keynote presenter brought another unique and powerful experience for all of us. She had presented at a similar conference 10 years ago, when she characterized our times as “turbulent." If times were turbulent 10 years ago, what would we call them now? Every second in the world there are events that leave us speechless, and feeling powerless. She proceeded then to develop this picture of powerlessness as a wound; humanity is wounded. We are wounded. To be human is to be
wounded. Without a wound, I am not human. What a powerful statement and challenge! In our work with her we were then invited to share in small groups our deepest wound, how we understand how a wound happens, and how we heal a wound? Healing for her is not the same as curing a wound though. Christine has developed a Manichean path of practice that offers us deep insights,  profound experiences, and at this conference left us with a sense of hope for the future. The challenge is to "keep this would open" enough so that it becomes an organ of perception in our biography.

Gabriele Edelstein, Dorothy LeBaron, Regine Kurek, Jef Saunders

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