Literacy of the Heart, a mixture of mystical poetry and masterful fiction, gave us Yogacharya Ellen O’Brian (The Moon Reminded Me) and award-winning author (think most recently of And the Mountains Echoed and previously, The Kite Runner) Khaled Hosseini as the perfect pair of writers to speak to us about the value of literature in ill-mannered political times. Anyone familiar with Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park knows that they have a reputation for bringing literary genius to the community, dating back to its original owner, peace activist Roy Kepler. And it looks like Kepler’s Literary Foundation is keeping that tradition alive.
The full house of literary folks sat in a semi-circle that created a living-room-like intimacy that Hosseini referred to as “a circular oasis in a sea of books.” This was a night to be drenched in Yogacharya’s mystical poetry and Hosseini’s intense fiction excerpts, followed by back and forth discussion of what literature can bring to us in difficult times. Yogacharya’s opening poem from her newest collection, The Moon Reminded Me was “In the Heart is a Well” a poem that led us into a teaching about the ways that reading literature requires us to listen deeply and cultivate our capacity for silence, which connects us to our deepest self.
Khaled responded by pointing out that here, in Silicon Valley, the most effective way to access another’s heart is still through literature. He recalled that in 2003 when The Kite Runner was published, very little was known of the culture of Afghanistan, but after his book’s release, that changed significantly. He spoke of the need for literature as a connection between people, especially when leaders speak of people in reductive, one-dimensional ways.
And if this is sounding like a meeting of two intensely aware writers, well, believe me, there was much more to receive. Whether speaking of the meaning of family as the place “where consciousness opens its eyes—where we learn how to be a person” or of the small things that go unnoticed, but set larger events and circumstances into motion, these writers played off each other like violin and bow. And if this wasn’t enough, a delicious Q & A followed the discussion—its own kind of literacy from the audience, who was clearly mesmerized by Yogacharya and Hosseini. These two are teaming up again for another night of spiritual poetry and stirring relevant fiction. For more info, see link below the video.
“The discussion on literacy of the heart, the importance of literature and the effect of deep listening was poetry itself.” ~ Shawne Smith