I'm reminded of this again this morning by a post from the wonderful Oriah Mountain Dreamer over at The Green Bough http://oriahsinvitation.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/choosing-wise-question.html.
'A story is like the wind,' records Laurens van der Post of a Bushman's words: 'it comes from a far-off place and we hear it.'
There are our own personal stories – maybe the perfectly ‘ordinary’ events of our daily lives (which of course are also extraordinary). These stories are a continuation of our collective histories (and herstories!), so fall deep behind us, and stretch towards the future; they also overlap with the stories of our families, friends, lovers, and so become wider.
Then there are the stories of our neighbourhood and community.
Wider again than these are the folk tales and cultural narratives of our society.
Add to these the stories that we call ‘current affairs’ – the national and global events and tragedies and joys that ripple through all of us living at this time.
Further back, deeper down, are the metanarratives and archetypes that are inherent in the human race, across time and across borders – they are human story rather than cultural story. (Anyone who has seen the painted prehistoric caves of France and Spain, the pyramids, the aboriginal art of Australia or of the native Americans will know what it is to stand in front of these pictorial stories and recognise that we are linked across millennia with the creators of this art.)
So stories are who we are. Story can shape what we think and believe, and how we live. Of course the opposite is also true: the lives we live influence the stories we accumulate.
How would it be to read books and hear stories that support us in being more fully and compassionately human? Ones that give us tools to grow and change; offer us models of functional, healthy patterns of relating – whether to ourselves, to each other, to the wider human sphere or to the planet as a whole, rather than narratives that merely underline how grim ‘reality’ is, and how untrustworthy and self-seeking people are, thus confirming our view of the world and the human condition as basically beyond hope?
We need now stories that offer us healing, offer us the potential of wholeness, of coming through in the end. Empowering stories. Stories that show us human being at its best: its most courageous, generous, kind, loving, compassionate, wise, funny. Stories that celebrate the earth, wilderness, the diversity of nations, the diversity of species. Inclusive stories that allow us to imagine a new world order based on empathy, co-operation, kindness, discussion, negotiation, fairness, equality.
Stories that celebrate what is green, what is vulnerable, what is innocent, what is childlike, what is wise, what is empowered feminine, what is empowered masculine; stories about co-operation and harmony rather than competition and conflict; about people making wise choices. Stories that celebrate magic, mystery, miracle. Stories that help restore some sort of faith, whatever that may mean for each of us.