The Power of Storytelling
The world’s earliest human histories are stories. A lot of these creation myths seem fantastical and wild at first glance, but each one reveals something deep and true about the culture that it emerged from. And in a way, people also create their own personal mythologies. Some of it may indeed be fantastical, but it is nonetheless rooted in one’s morals, views of the world, and self-perceptions.
This week, let’s talk about stories and how they move and shape people from every walk of life. Of course, this is not just about the stories that people hear and read, but also the stories they live through and create. What does someone’s personal story say about their self-perception? What stories shaped you as a child? Think back on the narratives that have made their mark on your life in ways small and large.
Saturday, September 24
“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story
– Patrick Rothfuss
Someone’s sense of identity can be tied to the stories they tell about themselves. After all, the way people think back on their pasts is through a narrative in the form of memory. Do those narratives have a moral? A message? What lessons have you been faced with in your life? Being able to recount the past is a form of magic, and telling stories is its manifestation.
Sunday, September 25
“That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.”
– Tim O’Brien
Often, the stories that people tell about themselves and their pasts don’t align with the facts. No two people remember the same event in the exact same way, but that doesn’t make their recollections less true. Your perception of reality shapes how you remember events, and the stories that you walk away with reveal more about the impact something had on you than anything else. Don’t be afraid to stand by your truth — just be willing to examine what it says about you and your experiences.
Monday, September 26
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
– Philip Pullman
Humans have always told stories. Whether it’s as cavemen sitting around campfires or as modern citizens binge-watching Netflix, people are fascinated with stories because empathy allows them to get invested in characters and imagine what life would be like in their shoes. What sorts of stories do you gravitate toward, and why? Consider what that says about how you navigate your emotions.
Tuesday, September 27
“It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.”
– Haruki Murakami
Are the stories you tell about yourself and your past mostly triumphant and happy? Or are they accounts of your darker moments, negative things that really shaped you? Once you’ve reflected on that for yourself, consider what your friends and loved ones do, and contemplate what that says about each of you.
Wednesday, September 28
“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”
– Neil Gaiman
Stories shape people continually, but never more so than when they’re young. Whether it was a book, a movie, a comic, or something else, it’s likely that there was at least one story that truly swept you away as a child. Ask yourself what that may reveal about your youth, and figure out whether that narrative still resonates with you.
Thursday, September 29
“We’re all stories, in the end.”
– Steven Moffat
The stories that people share about themselves often reveal more than just surface information. When people craft their stories, they can reveal how they view themselves, others, and the world around them. Today, accept the challenge to examine what your favorite stories about yourself reveal. If they were a collection on a shelf, what would the themes be?
Friday, September 30
“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, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
– Gilda Radner
The stories that people tell about their experiences are humanity’s way of making sense of what has happened to them. In the moment, life happens quickly and often chaotically. However, as time goes on and you look back, it becomes easier to see which pieces have stayed and which have fallen out of focus. The things that you carry with you as you move forward are what really matter most.
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