Speaking to Dr Daniela Araujo about what to write in this blog post, I asked what she thought was special about the exchange of poems that have flown back and forth around the world between Chile, Brazil, and now Australia. The conversation went something like the following. Dani paused for a moment before saying, with a twinkle in her eye, that waiting for a poem to arrive from the league of anti-anorexia was a bit like waiting for mail to arrive by“owl post” like in the world of Harry Potter. As you might recall, “owl post” is a wizarding system of sending messages or items using owls as the carriers.
“When you think about it,” Dani mused to me, “Why would you have, in a world of magic where anything is possible, a reliance on such a haphazard and unpredictable form of communication? Anything could happen to those owls! They could be waylaid by storms, or grow weary of flying and go for a prolonged nap, or fall in love with a fellow owl and forget about their mission of carrying the letter to its destination altogether. Yet owl post is precisely the kind of system of communication that belongs in a magical world.”
And so it is in the Anti-anorexia League. That little ball of feathers has something that an email or text message can all too often be missing – a tiny heart!
David Epston, a beloved mentor and friend to both Dani and I, first began speaking about the Anti-anorexia League inthe 1980s as a way of sharing insider knowledge between those who were battling or had battled anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia nervosa. Braving the wrath of anorexia/bulimia, and shame, feelings of inadequacy, and helplessness,these insiders have shared their hard won wisdoms and deepest fears with each other through letters, essays, poetry and art. Many of these documents can be viewed today at the archives of resistance (Narrative Approaches, 2021).
David introduced Dani and I in the hope we could continue the tradition of circulating documents of resistance and solidarity. But as Dani says, it’s not so much that we carry the poems between our leagues, it is more accurate to say that the poems carry us. Max Weber said that “modernity is characterized by the progressive disenchantment of the world”. Weber used the German word Entzauberung, which, although translating into English as “disenchantment”, literally means “de-magic-ation.”
The wisdom of indigenous and ancient cultures reveres the power of words, but often we reduce them to mere meaning-carrying tools, and forget that they have the power to bring into being worlds of possibilities and transformation. Such is not the case with the Anti-anorexia League documents. We feel that magic passes through us as we read these poems that speak from heart to heart about suffering, endurance, and the quest for joy and meaning. When an email arrives from the Brazilian league I open it with a beating heart. I know that whatever will be written will reach us in a way no scientific paper or book could reach us. Because it was written with the League somewhere in mind, with us in mind.
Whatever suffering or joy that carries the words of that poem, we know that at least some part of that can be shared with us.
While the video of our exchange of poems was being made, the Brazilian League wrote this story. We ran out of time to include it in the video and share it with others as it deserves to be shared, so it is here for the first time on this blog post. It is called Mirror, Our Mirror. We hope that it carries you just as it carries us:
Once upon a time, there was an evil witch who crafted a magic mirror to steal dreams, hopes, aspirations, the joy andthe very life force of people. This witch had a fondness for preying on people, especially if they were talented and sensitive souls.
Knowing that these people wouldn’t be an easy prey to their tricks, the witch kept watching until their intended victim had been shaken by some painful event: an anxiety, a loss, a violence, abuse. Only then the witch would come out and get close, saying they had the solution to their victim’s suffering: “If you follow my instructions you will be safe!” –which is, of course, a lie!
And then they presented the victim with the mirror, which showed each person a replica of the image of their own face, animated by the witch’s voice and intentions – while hiding their soul in the shadow.
However, a group of courageous people, fed up with the witches’ authoritarian regime and torture, decided to join a league to find a way to break that spell. And after much searching, they finally found a fairy, who revealed a way to break the spell of the mirror: by uniting several of these people, bewitched by anorexia, and facing the mirror together, denouncing the witch for her crimes, the spell is broken. And then the mirror, which remains magical, becomes the“Mirror, Our Mirror”, and begins to reveal the unique glow of the soul of each person who looks at it.
If you are moved by anything you have read here, in these words, in the story of Our Mirror Mirror, or in the poems of the video, please send your own owl post to: Kitty at email@example.com or Dani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to the Archives of Resistance: Anti Anorexia/anti-bulimia: www.narrativeapproaches.com
Weber, M. (1922). “Science as Vocation.” Web. Weizmann Institute of Science. 1–21. Accessed 8 December 2017.
Video documenting a string of poetic communications between the Chilean and Brazilian anti-anorexia leagues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-273Ju0175I