“Yet the question remains, what stories will we save? And the question arises, what stories might save us?”– Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher
When I saw the title, I immediately thought of my Native Canadian dreamcatcher, I was thinking how great it would be to have a device like that to catch stories. Unfortunately (or fortunately), that job falls to us humans, and if you think of a human being as a repository of knowledge and experiences, it’s clear to see how important collecting these stories is. It’s even more poignant when one thinks of our loved ones who have passed on and all the untold stories that disappeared with them.
It took a book like this to show me just how stories can be used, and just how crucial they are, beyond mere entertainment and education. Apart from reiterating the importance of oral tradition,this book helped expose me to new avenues I had never considered. What I like about stories is the connections they create. But that’s not all they do:
“Story opens up a space between people that is unbound from the reality we are standing in. Our imaginative ability to tell story, and our empathetic ability to receive story, can take us anywhere and make it real. In the act of telling story, we create a world we invite others into. And in the act of listening to story, we accept an invitation into experiences that are not our own, although they seem to be.”
Baldwin says stories can unite. She mentions events such as 9/11 and the 2004 tsunami in which stories helped to unite people in a powerful ways. She also says they can do the opposite and then touches on the religious narratives that divide us. It also brought to mind how damaging some racial and cultural narratives can be, in fact, I was listening to Canadian rapper Shad’s l song “Brother (Watching)” in which he discusses stereotypes black youth face and how they are formed by the popular media, not by the youth themselves. (http://genius.com/Shad-brother-watching-lyrics).
I was also touched by the healing nature of storytelling and how having something inside that we want to share but don’t (or can’t) can have consequences:
“Unarticulated story lives in us like electricity.”
”We record unspoken experience in the mind and body, but unless we can story it out, experience remains inside us shrouded like fog hanging over water. We may act on these unspoken tensions, but we act blindly. We whistle bravely forward, a small, lost skiff, sounding a horn in the mist. And often we crash upon unseen shoals. Unarticulated experiences that are not allowed into the story can show up years later as trauma, disease, mental illness, or a midlife crisis. But when these same experiences are shifted into language and successfully worked through in the healing power of story, they lay the groundwork for transformative personal development.”
I quickly became a fan of Baldwin’s warm, evocative writing voice, as well as her enthusiasm for writing. She has definitely inspired me to do more with story in my life. Even if you’re not convinced that stories are important, I’m sure Baldwin will convince you that they are. And not just other people’s stories, but our own too. I think it’s easy for us to think our own stories are inconsequential but I learned that all stories are important:
“We understand the power of the self-story by listening to each others’ stories. Other people’s stories send us scrambling through our own story looking for correlations, similarities, or different possibilities.”
The more I read this book, the more I thought of my own stories, the ones I want to share.It’s more than sharing stories but it’s also about using stories for positive change. That might sound airy and idealistic to some but there are plenty of examples of how stories have changed the world.
Recommended for those who love stories. Lots of writing prompts to inspire us all.