Friday, July 10, 2009
If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
—Barry Lopez, in Crow and Weasel
If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life. —Siberian Elder
In my quest to imbue a power to relax into a healthy sustainable psyche, community and planet, I keep returning to story, because our story writes our script. I’ve been thinking about stories this week in the context of watching the mass mourning of Michael Jackson’s life and death. I was struck by the repeated comments about his death being untimely. Maybe not, consider this: Michael’s story was of being Peter Pan. The trajectory of the Peter Pan story is to never grow old, yet the body he inhabited was 50. When Michael announced his final tour, wearing large dark glasses shaped like eye sockets of a skull, pale white, and 112 lbs. with a wide toothy grin… it seemed that he had abandon Peter for being the brother of Jack Skellington.
One does not age from either story.
I didn’t know Michael but I do know stories and stories follow rules.
It also struck me that his mother was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. Not being a follower of MJ I didn’t know this. Had I known, I would have seriously doubted the accusations against him for sexual molestation of children. Jehovah’s Witness do not celebrate birthdays or holidays, rather it is believed that salvation comes through suffering. To be persecuted is considered Christ-like and is one’s ticket to heaven. From youth, Michael was forced into a life of being celebrated. Part of him thrived on the attention, but the religion of the mother that he loved judged such adoration as counter productive to the soul’s salvation. Think about it. How then to find redemption? Playing the innocent in such a way that it would lead to persecution… this would fit the story.
The rule is this:
The story owns us until we own the story.
The first story is the one we were born into.
The second story is generated by what happens to us.
The next story is the one we co-create with life.
I long ago noticed that invariably the people with the cool lives had good imaginations, and a love and respect for story.
What is the trajectory of your story?
Where will it lead?
Where will it end?
How will it leave the world for future generations?
If the answers are not stellar… start reading, writing, and practice telling a new story.
“The story was the bushman’s most sacred possession. These people knew what we do not; that without a story you have not got a nation, or culture, or civilization. Without a story of your own, you haven’t got a life of your own.” —Laurens Van der Post