Words and storytelling give us tools to amplify wonder and joy in the everyday.
I walk across the park on my way to work through falling snow. Momentarily, I lower my eyelids and open my inner eyes. I am surrounded by myriad crystals, each unlike any other, that in moments will cease to be.
Later, amid the forced exodus of a fire alarm, I am blessed by a single, perfect flower-crystal that rests on my coat’s puffy black sleeve. I wonder, without that amplified perception that I chose to tap into earlier, would I have overlooked this gift?
Once again, I seem to have used a combination of knowledge and internal storytelling to fuel my sense of joy.
Through listening to and reading the stories of others, we build the tools we need to frame our own experiences. Without words or narrative skill, we cannot reference or fully inhabit what happens to us and our responses to it; we cannot focus our thoughts or our emotions.
Stories give us metaphor, the stuff of the ‘creation of meaning’. They give us legends based on archetypes that enable us to recognize the rich cast of characters that inhabit our inner worlds.
Our ability to tell our own story and, further, to be aware that we choose the particular narrative that we tell ourselves and others, has a profound impact on our capacity for happiness.
The quality of our personal storytelling, as well as our capacity to listen to and truly hear the stories of others, is fundamental to our ability to connect, to build relationship.
Storytelling enables us to share our experiences and our perceptions of them and thus to show each other who we are. Our stories bind us together by connecting us to the commonality of symbol and myth and to our shared humanity.
The fact of language is one more thing that divides him from nature. But, he finds that if he doesn’t record the days, he has nothing to keep them apart. They blur into each other, a mass of green and gray, and he loses not only them but himself. (Alison Pick in ‘The Sweet Edge’)
This set me thinking. I have often felt the urge to learn ‘the speaking of silence’. Words sometimes seem to fill the spaces to bursting, getting in the way of real meaning. Despite a life-long love-affair with words, I have always retained some uncertainty as to their fundamental value.
Yet without words, what happens to memory?
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