Annie Stilger Virnig
I have grown up hearing tales of the vibrant, defiant, quixotic individuals and communities that my father has worked with around the world. I have grown up in Japan. I have grown up with the chance to meet and work with those whose stories wend through these pages. This book brings to life the richness and wisdom that I have always found in those voices, that show me that another world is possible, one in which ‘moving beyond business as usual’ is not just an empty catch phrase. They give me hope. My father is a father figure to many; he has an innate ability to listen and to sit with the things that are most difficult without trying to change them or lighten them prematurely. He can echo back what he has heard in a way that opens new truths and possibilities, in a way that creates grounding where there was none. Early in the book, he says: “We arrive quietly, working from our listen-ing. We hear their stories. In the process, they begin to see themselves in a different light. They are able, literally and figuratively, to re-mem-ber themselves, to discover more of who they are.” This book comes from deep listening. It sheds light on how people and communities in Japan and around the world are living in and rising from disasters. The words in these pages are a powerful reminder of how to embrace disaster and uncertainty — whether ecological, sociopolitical, or personal — as we live our lives in uncertain times. They are also authentic, a reflection of my father and how he lives his life in all of its messiness and ridiculousness and grief and joy.