We are born into story. From the moment we dive headfirst into the world we are anointed with a name, then told that we are a son, daughter, sister, cousin, grandchild, here’s your bed, here’s your room, this your house. You are part of a family, home, building, street, camp, neighborhood, town, city, metropolis, state, region, country, homeland, continent, on a planet circling a sun that swirls through a sprawling Universe.
We are given the names of things and told if they are good or bad. We start naming other things to identify them. We categorize and place everything into groups. We build our world until it becomes everything around us, surrounded by everything that is not. We identify things because until they are given a name, they are meaningless. Rosoudeae.
Everything that we know begins with a name, followed by a story. This is not just a rock. It is a particular kind of rock. It is an agate. It is a general name for microcrystalline quartz and moganite mineraloid (thanks for the names, Google). It is a moon rock. It is the rock that David used to kill Goliath. It is the rock of ages. (In 1923, Chicago Tribune newspaper correspondents all over the world were asked to send rocks from the places they were reporting from — the rocks they sent were embedded into the wall of the Chicago Tribune building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Today you can see carved stones from the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Jerusalem, Mayan temples on your walk to Starbucks. Even stones and walls have a story.)
Parents, teachers and society tell us how to fit into their world, how to become square pegs for their square holes. They smooth out the rough edges and tell us how to fit in, as they paradoxically heap adulations upon those who stand out. We’re told what we’re good at, what we suck at. If you’re lucky, you get a chance to unpack all that baggage and repack it. And still, they are just stories. (We even know stories of people who dropped out and became hugely successful, right?)
Life is surrounded by a series of stories that you believe and that help you to believe in yourself and in the world around you. Stories create personal worlds which are then woven together and become the social fabric.
There are the stories others tell us. And the stories we tell ourselves. Which ones…