Storytelling & Listening (with Ken the Fool)

“If we were able to unwind the sunset, would we be able to wind it up again?”      ~Ken Feit/Ken the Fool


I have been meeting with a group called LISTENING TOGETHER for about two years now. We gather at 7 pm on Monday evenings at Pathways Retreat, Goshen, IN.  All are welcome. It is an evolving group, and “seeking Wisdom” would be a good way to state our hopes, I believe.  We sit, we chant together, we practice centering prayer, and we explore where Wisdom leads. We began by studying the book “The Wisdom Jesus” by my teacher, Cynthia Bourgeault.

Now, in this Easter Season, the group is turning to sharing our SACRED STORIES.  And I realized this morning that I was returning to a practice I learned in a college class in 1974. The class was entitled STORYTELLING AND LISTENING.  Our entire college household, whom someone had lovingly named The Lyon Street Institute for the Strangly Gifted, was in attendance. The teacher in this intensive January class was a man who called himself “KEN THE FOOL.”  A tall, handsome, winsome man who had been trained as a Jesuit priest, Ken had instead heeded the call to be an itinerant fool.  His friend, E.Reid Gilbert, writes:

After Ken finished seminary, he petitioned the bishop of Milwaukee to appoint him as the “Official Fool to the Church.”  When Ken related this to me he was obviously deeply troubled over the bishop’s refusal. I attempted to reassure him of the efficacy of his calling; “Well, Ken, you know the unofficial fools are always more effective in the Church than the official fools.”  He seemed to take some comfort in that. ~“Remembering Ken Feit” on “All Fall Down” blog by John Towsen

What did Ken the Fool teach us?  To be present. Fully present.  To glean from the wise/foolish stories of all traditions. To transform ourselved into different “beings” by putting on white face and learning to clown. To create gibberish and jargon messages to proclaim in ernest.  And to experience the deepest mystery of communion through waiting as he held a single kernel of popcorn on a spoon in a drop of oil over the heat of a candle, until it popped. And eating it, he popped!

Like most forms of wisdom, Ken’s foolish variety must be experienced.  Go to minute 4:30 in the first Vimeo video to see this eucharistic celebration.  Read and watch more, if you are so drawn.  And consider the stories you have told, and the stories you have taken to heart, that have delighted life into tears and smiles.

And join us on Monday if you would like to practice STORYTELLING & LISTENING.

BENEDICTION: “May the Great Spirit work sunrise in your heart.” ~Ken the Fool


P.S.  Of our college household who participated in STORYTELLING & LISTENING with Ken the Fool in 1974, one is a professional clown/storyteller/mime, another elicits the stories of those in chemo treatment and is a storytelling poet and photographer, another is a Quaker art therapist who shares the story of her mother’s murder in Journey of Hope — as an avocate for ending the death pentalty, one listens carefully to stories as a federal judge, another has been exploring stories with students as a high school English teacher for almost 40 years, and then there is me….


2 thoughts on “Storytelling & Listening (with Ken the Fool)

  1. What an enchanting Fool is Ken the Fool. And how fortunate you are to have experienced him. May we all be Fools of the Deepest Things. I followed your links to more about Ken the Fool to lines like, “Quiet please. I’m dying.” and “Since 1969 I’ve never lived in one place for more than two week.”). We’re all itinerant everyday if we care to see it that way. Thanks so much for this treat.

    Liked by 1 person

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