The power of storytelling
The earliest human stories in the world are stories. Many of these creation myths seem fantastic and wild at first, but each reveals something deep and true about the culture from which they emerged. And in a way, people also create their own personal mythologies. Some of it may be fantastic, but it’s still rooted in one’s morality, worldview, and self-perception.
This week let’s talk about stories and how they move and shape people from all walks of life. Of course, it’s not just about the stories people hear and read, but also the stories they live through and create. What does a person’s personal history say about their self-image? What stories shaped you as a child? Think back to the stories that shaped your life in ways big and small.
“It’s like everyone is telling a story about themselves in their own head. Always. The whole time. This story makes you who you are. We build ourselves from this history
– Patrick Rothfuss
A person’s sense of identity can be tied to the stories they tell about themselves. Finally, through a narrative, people think back to their past in the form of memories. Do these stories have a moral? A message? What lessons have you faced in your life? The ability to tell the past is a form of magic, and storytelling is its manifestation.
“That’s what fiction is for. It serves to track down the truth when the truth isn’t enough for the truth.”
– Tim O’Brien
Often the stories people tell about themselves and their past don’t square with the facts. No two people remember the same event in the same way, but that doesn’t make their memories any less true. Your perception of reality affects how you remember events, and the stories you go home with reveal more about the impact something had on you than anything else. Don’t be afraid to own your truth—just be willing to examine what it says about you and your experiences.
“After food, shelter and company, stories are what we need most in the world.”
– Philip Pullman
People have always told stories. Whether as cavemen sitting around campfires or modern citizens binge-watching Netflix, people are fascinated by stories because empathy allows them to delve into characters and imagine what life would be like in their shoes would. What stories are you interested in and why? Consider what this says about how you deal with your emotions.
“It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness is a story.”
– Haruki Murakami
Are the stories you tell about yourself and your past mostly triumphant and happy? Or is it reports about your darker moments, negative things that really shaped you? If you’ve thought about it yourself, think about what your friends and loved ones are doing and what that says about each of you.
“Stories read at the right age never quite let go. You can forget who wrote it or what the story was called. Sometimes you forget exactly what happened, but when a story touches you, it stays with you and haunts the places in your head that you rarely go.”
– Neil Gaimann
Stories shape people all the time, but never more so than when they were young. Whether it was a book, movie, comic or something else, it’s likely that there was at least one story that really grabbed you as a kid. Ask yourself what that might reveal about your youth, and see if that tale still resonates with you.
“We are all stories at the end.”
– Steven Moffat
The stories people tell about themselves often reveal more than just superficial information. When people write their stories, they can reveal how they see themselves, others, and the world around them. Today, accept the challenge of examining what your favorite stories reveal about yourself. If they were a collection on a shelf, what would the themes be?
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, needing to change, seizing the moment and making the most of it, not knowing what will happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
– Gilda Radner
The stories people tell about their experiences are humanity’s way of understanding what happened to them. At the moment life happens fast and often chaotically. However, as you look back over time, it becomes easier to see which pieces stayed and which fell out of focus. What really counts are the things you carry with you as you progress.
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