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What We're Reading Now

Silent Words

1 November 2019

Rachel returned to The Story of Bip, written and illustrated by Marcel Marceau, and found herself as delighted by the words of the famous mime as she was when she first read them as a girl. It's truly a wonder how much we can say, even when there are no words.

Tags: communication, picture books, rachel read

I don't remember when I received my copy of The Story of Bip, a picture book by and about world-famous mime Marcel Marceau with dramatic and dreamy artwork, or who gave it to me as a gift. I think I'd been taken to see Marceau perform, and the book solidified the experience. I know that I loved it, not only because of my fond memories, but also because pasted inside the front cover is one of the bookplates that I used to mark my most favorite treasures. 

For someone who communicated largely without words, Marceau sure has a way with them here. "I was part of the universe—of the millions of stars and planets, part of the sky and the moon and the sun, part of them, the people of the earth. And I wanted to tell them that although there was violence, ugliness, and cruelty in our world, there also could be harmony, love, and peace." I'm not sure why those words grabbed me so much at the ripe old age of six or seven or eight (and, in retrospect, Bip's tale is pretty intense for a bedtime book), but they got me then and they get me now. With a drive to communicate and no voice to do so, Bip enters the arena and learns to speak without words. 

Whether we want to or not, we speak without words, too. All too often, I know I do this "speaking" without Bip's intentionality or care. Words matter, but so do actions, and the way I hold my face or move my body can amplify my intent or render it useless. And it seems that now, as much as ever, taking care with the things we say and do and the ways we impact others is, well, important. So I'll be taking this lesson from Bip today. (I'll also be grateful that I don't have to do all my communicating silently.)

.  .  .  .  .  .

My word for October was belief, and it did its job. My word for November is magicThis week, I've had a few occasions to consider the phenomenon of knowing or doing without being able to articulate exactly how, and I think that's a pretty powerful kind of magic. We're also approaching the holiday season with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, and these days bring their own special kind of magic. So sprinkle some pixie dust, grab your wand, and let go of a need to explain all the details. Let's embrace the magic together.


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