Stone Soup


        This ordinary man comes to the outskirts of a village, tired and hungry. He asks the first people he meets for food. They tell him the village is starving.  Beating a garbage can lid and chanting in a strange jargon, he advances to the town square.  As the villagers cluster around him, roused briefly from their lassitude, he announces that he is a magician from an exotic land, come to solve their problem.  Pulling a stone from his pocket, he tells them of its powerful magic, handed down through the generations of wizards, and says that if they bring him a piece of string and the largest kettle in the village, the stone will feed them all.

        He fills the kettle with water, puts it on a fire and suspends the stone in it.  The magic, he says, will take some hours to work. In the meantime, if anyone would happen to have an old soup-bone to throw in, the flavor would be enhanced.  Someone does. Perhaps someone has a bay leaf, some wilted carrot tops, a handful of corn form their cow-feed. Someone else remembers a potato they had forgotten, another contributes a hoarded piece of suet.  In time the kettle is filled with rich, nourishing soup.  The magician fishes out his stone, cleans it reverently, and announces dinner time.  Everyone has a bowl and there is enough left over for him.

        I think of this story every time I tend an open circle process.  The circle is the kettle, where resources are shared and flavors marry; the soup has no recipe, or rather a recipe only for the process of its cooking. In particular, Stone Soup describes a style of Open Interview in which the gamekeeper plays an unusually active part.  I’ll give two examples, one loose and one open-ended, the other disciplined and focused to an end.


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