The stories we tell, and the ones we absorb, notes writer Steve Almond, “are what allow us to pluck meaning from the rush of experience.” It is why I believe in the power of stories. But power works for good and evil, and every story has a perspective. Not every story is told with the best of intentions.
“We do not tell stories as they are, we tell stories as we are. “Anaïs Nin
The truth in this quote about stories attributed to French-Cuban American diarist, essayist, novelist and writer Anaïs Nin made me stop and think. We see through our own personal lenses as we tell stories, and there are other stories — sometimes hidden — that are part of the telling. Stories that may be good or bad, true or false.
We all decide if our stories will include a larger sense of humanity as we consider our relationship to others. I saw the quote about stories in a recent enewsletter, and an earlier post from the same organization with the subject matter title of Reclaiming our sense of humanity came to mind as I thought about the telling and absorbing of stories.
Reclaiming our sense of humanity strikes me as a necessary project in these turbulent times. In that work, the stories we tell ourselves and others are key to our growth personally and as a nation.
It is easy to look at the chaotic and never-ending news cycle and lose faith in the future, to question our ability to see each other as humans, worthy of care and love. People tell stories from the horrific and sick to the fantastical and sometime comical. (Jewish lasers in space, anyone?) These are often based on conspiracy theorists repeating baseless claims designed to spread disinformation and distrust. Or sometimes these stories come as part of a worldview from groups who believe that people who don’t practice their form of religion are illegitimate. Those stories tell us who they are. They also make it easy to turn to cynicism and despair.
There are different ways to approach life, to tell our stories, and to reclaim our sense of humanity. We can refuse to be drawn into the false stories and lies that are told to drive us apart. And we can do the work that is before us to remake our relationship to others.
“When you recognize that pain and response to pain is a universal thing, it helps explain so many things about others, just as it explains so much about yourself … It essentially tells you what everybody needs. You know what everybody needs? You want to put it in a single word? Everybody needs to be understood. And out of that comes every form of love.”Sherwin Nuland
Journalist and broadcaster Krista Tippett shared her thoughts on the reclaiming of our sense of humanity and the need to move beyond all the coverage of the worst of human nature, in an interview with the Poetry Society of America. When asked “If you were to choose one poem or text to inscribe in a public place right now, what would that be?” she responds:
“The last line of a poem called “Vocation,” by William Stafford: “Your job is to find what the world is trying to be.” The language of vocation — calling — is important to me, in civilizational as well as personal terms. Through all of the extraordinary disorientation and tumult of our world right now, I think we are also glimpsing the world that wants to be born — a world in which we center what is essential in human terms — and reimagine and remake our relationship to others and to the natural world.”
Tippet notes that the worst of human nature and action gets all the coverage in our chaotic news cycle, “but it is not the whole story of our time.” I like the idea that our calling in this moment is to look, hear, and work to “center what is essential in human terms” as we reimagine and remake our relationship to others. In short, it is to reclaim our humanity.
Have a good week.
More to come…