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How do our current stories shape us

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago

How do our current stories shape us? 


Wisdom from Christina Baldwin


Story opens up a space between people that is unbound from the reality we are standing in. Our imaginative ability to tell a story, and our empathetic ability to receive a story, can take us anywhere and make it real. In the act of telling a story, we create a world we invite others into. And in the act of listening to a story, we accept an invitation into experiences that are not our own, although they seem to be. Story weaves a sense of familiarity. We are simultaneously listening to another's voice and traveling our own memories. We are looking for connectors, making synaptic leaps linking one variation of human experience to another.

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 7



Not every word that comes out of our mouths is a story. Story is narrative. Words are how we think; narrative is how we link. Story takes life events and combines what's happening with all our thoughts, feelings, and reactions. And all these elements combine inside story into sense making. Story is the sweet nectar of language. Story is the crystallizing of thought, turning it into something digestible, sweet on the heart, even when the details are hard to bear.

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 10



There are seven billion story-filled people in the world: all of us talkers, all of us listeners. We live in a breadth of conditions almost unimaginable to each other. Yet if we can find a common language in which to communicate, we can find the commonality in who we are. Embedded in the narrative of our lives are common human values, impulses, and longings.

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 12



It takes courage to tell our stories. It takes belief that our stories will be received and held in respect. It requires that some mechanism is alive and structured in the community around us to hold who we are individually in the context of who we are collectively. As long as we share our stories, as long as our stories reveal our strengths and vulnerabilities to each other, we reinvigorate our understanding and tolerance for the little quirks of personality that in other circumstances would drive us apart. When we live in a family, a community, a country where we know each other's true stories, we remember our capacity to lean in and love each other into wholeness.

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 18


As soon as our ancestors began to talk, we began making the social container that would hold what we had to say. We gathered around the campfire and practiced speaking and listening. We literally grew our mental capacity by putting our thoughts into stories. We delighted and entertained and informed and inspired and socialized and governed and worshipped through story. Today, the deterioration of that understanding in dominant culture, and the obliteration of that understanding in indigenous culture, are two of the greatest threats humanity faces. We require story in order to link our lives with each other. Story couples our experiences, mind to mind and heart to heart. Story is the electromagnetic conductor that brings us close enough together to make the leap of association and identification, to see that another person is a variation of ourselves. We are in grave danger if we lose our link to our own stories.

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 19-20



Those who would control the ear in the heart understand that if people truly discover each other, we will make a million circles and sit down and laugh and cry at our commonalities. And then we will not be so easily led to fight wars.. We will not so unconsciously exploit other people's lives in order to make our own lives more comfortable. We will not be confused by the manipulation of half-truths and lies. Story is a component in what we will make of the world.

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 35



A man whose wife had died of cancer and left him to raise several children, married again. And his children, though longing for good mothering, had a difficult time accepting this woman into their lives. One night the ten-year-old boy wrote an angry letter in a spiral notebook and left it on the table for the woman to find. "I will never call you mother!" his diatribe began. The woman read it late at night. She turned to the next blank page and wrote back. "Dear Jeremy, I do not want to replace your mother, but if you listen carefully to your own heart beating, you'll notice it makes two sounds, lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub. That first sound is your mother, who will live in you as long as you live. That second sound is your choice about whom else you will love. One day when I was your age, my father left home and never came back. It took me years to learn the story, and more years to deal with my broken heart. Shall we write each other letters here and see if we can talk about the things that make and break our hearts?

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 49



Telling stories is what saves us, when we add our tiny piece of what we have learned in a lifetime into the great stewpot of collective wisdom. Whatever happens to us now, story is still our guiding star. And this guidance resides in us, resides in the hearts and minds of the human community. We cannot see or hear this guidance unless we bring it forth and make it accessible to each other through story. We do not know where to turn until our stories lay out a track, give us a word to stand on while we get our bearings, and then make the next word to stand on. What we need is in us, and around us in each other-we bring it to voice.


Story is a search for community. Story moves through the world in a living network. Story is a self-organizing force on the planet that works through us. Stories and people co-create. Stories and people co-evolve. [We are now] living in repeated messes. But when we are messing with life, not against it-attempting to contribute, even in our human ignorance of the whole picture-we are tinkering toward wholeness. We are contributing toward order. We are part of the living system, the network. This network animates the Storycatcher in us and connects us to each other and to the wholeness of the story, even though we only have part of the story to share. The Storycatcher network seeds us with ideas, shares what works and what we learn when something doesn't work; this network reassures us that we belong to a community of human aspiration almost beyond imagining.


"When a butterfly flaps its wings in California, the weather changes in New York." I don't know much about butterflies, but I know story. I know that butterflies seem fragile and inconsequential and yet one hundred million monarchs fly thousands of miles in the nine months of their lives. Our stories may also seem fragile and inconsequential, and yet they fly beyond the perimeters of the speakers' or writers' lives and provide succor, challenge, and inspiration that cast an influence on nearly unlimited potential. Story told to inform-inspire-activate-becomes an act of citizenship. If I make a little contribution to the common good and don't tell the story, it's good for my soul, but my silence creates a closed loop that starts and stops with me: nobody but me learns. If I make a little contribution and brag about my virtuousness or rant and rave about all the thoughtless people in the world, my story might reach out a ring or two, but my opinionating creates another kind of closure. But if I make my little contribution and share it through a story that speaks of beauty, love, and commitment, then the story and action invite the listener or reader to reflect and act in their own creative ways.


The proper use of story creates community; community creates story. So if we believe that "life seeks order in a disorderly way," then all the upheaval and messiness that surround us become a sign of productive busyness. And if we can keep calm while "life uses processes we find hard to tolerate and hard to believe in-mess upon mess until something workable "emerges," then we can let go of despair. Despair interprets messiness as chaos. Despair is a little box, way too small for the mind of Homo Sapiens. Despair sucks the stories right out of our hearts. Despair discourages us just at those moments when we most need our courage and need to have enough heart energy in reserve that we can encourage each other. I say, enough of despair. Despair does not help. What we need is hope. Hope is the story that keeps us going. Hope says the world is still beginning, life is young and still getting organized. Hope says come on in, there's something only you can do, a story only you can share. Hope defines this time in history as a great turning; a time when human beings are taking our place as the earthly ones capable of wisdom and good judgment. Hope blows evidence of this capacity back into our hearts, and fills us with stories that inspire action.


There is a Ray Bradbury fable about a time when people are full of dread for the state of the world and what the future might bring. And one day in the midst of this dread, a young scientist. hauling a time machine. [says] he will travel on their behalf into the future and see what happened. "Great news!" he tells them. "In the future there is peace and justice, there is enough food and water for all, people live in cooperation and walk gently on the earth." The people are stunned; this is not what they expected. But something begins to stir in them-a sense of participation, a desire to do something to help this happen. They set off to create the future that has been promised. Years pass, and while life is not perfect, the world is indeed in better shape. So one day a young Storycatcher comes to visit the old, old scientist, who is sitting by the time machine now rusting in his garden. "Tell me about your journey," she asks. The old man smiles, "My dear, I didn't go anywhere," he admits. "I just gave people hope." Hope is action; hope is doing something; hope is a million creative, heartfelt responses in which we discover that choice is always present and human beings are always choosing. Yet hope is tricky; like joy, it must include and befriend ambiguity. To live in denial, to proceed with false cheerfulness, avoiding the seriousness of our situation, will quickly dash any hope built on such a flimsy foundation. 


Storycatchers can serve not only as carriers of hopeful and thought-provoking tales, but also as receivers of confused and heartrending accounts of personal awakening. The movement aspect of storycatching is about creating interpersonal space in which we can hold story with each other. We need to practice being in the now; we need a readiness to notice, to volunteer to listen and respond to each other while we speak our way into holding the complexity of the world. Storycatching is at its root an act of refuge, a place to turn, an offering that we will be listened to while we hold our hearts like a talking piece in our hands. In this way, the skills of eliciting story, and skills of receiving story, grow among us. Story makes community; communities make story. Story is our job. Our niche in the great order of things is to appreciate, to notice, to call attention to beauty, attention to need, attention to something we can do. Without us. there would be no one here to engage the story of it at all. The sunset was doing its sky painting ten thousand years ago and ten million years ago, and it will be doing it ten thousand years from now and ten million years from now. We will be long gone. And the earth will decide whether or not a creature that can imagine and appreciate and pray and conceptualize is worth all the rest that we do.

--Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher, 223-234


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