… And Rakontu, Too …

Posting this on behalf of Cynthia Kurtz, who had technical difficulty posting a comment (and I, too, had trouble posting it in comment form, so I made it into a regular blog posting) — and she’s right that my list should have included Rakontu in today’s post: Great list, Kathy. … Continue reading

Story Wisdom from The Spirituality of Imperfection: What We Used to Be Like, What Happened, and What We Are Like Now

Continuing my post about the wonderful book, The Spirituality of Imperfection

It was on page 63 that I finally began to understand the book’s subtitle: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning. I want to share with you some of what the book says about storytelling and how important stories are for sharing our common humanity and imperfections. Here are some passages from The Spirituality of Imperfection:

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Listen! Listen to stories. For what stories do, above all else, is hold up a mirror so that we can see ourselves. Stories are mirrors of human be-ing, reflecting back our very essence. In a story, we come to know precisely the both/and, mixed-up-ed-ness of our very being. In the mirror of another’s story, we can discover our tragedy and our comedy — and therefore our very human-ness.

The stories that sustain a spirituality of imperfection are wisdom stories. They follow a temporal format, describing “what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.” Such stories, however, can do more: The sequential format makes it possible for other people’s stories to become part of “my” story. Sometimes, for example, hearing another person;’s story can occasion profound change. Telling the story of that change then follows the format of telling a story within my story: “Once upon a time, I did not understand this very well, but then I heard this story, and now I understand it very differently.”

When a [person] comes to you and tell you your own story, you know that your sins are forgiven. And when you are forgiven, you are healed.

Stories help us attend. And “attending” in a setting of storytelling and storylistening, helps us to remember… “Memory” is communal.” Thus, although a spirituality of imperfection insists, “Pay attention to yourself,” such attending is not self-centered self-seeking but an awareness of oneself as related to others, as a member of a community.

Spirituality’s long-standing connection to story and storytelling ensures that we will never be alone in the spiritual way of life. For whenever and wherever there is a storyteller, there will also be a storyhearer. In the communal act of telling and listening, listening and telling, the sense of belonging begins.

If we would listen, we must also tell; and if we would tell our stories, we need places where we can tell and listen.

It is … a human truth that we are able to listen only when we know that in time. we will be able to tell our own story. Perhaps the main benefit of thr storytelling format … is that it invites, enables, and teaches listening. When we are able to tell our storied, when we are urged to stand up and tell them, we learn respect for other people’s stories and for the need to tell them. The practice of telling stories gives birth to good listeners.

… Community is where we can learn and practice storytelling and its virtues.

That [sober alcoholic] way of life, [early AA members] discovered, could be learned and taught only through the process of telling stories — stories that disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.

Discovering a new “map” through storytelling:

When newcomers to Alcoholics Anonymous become immersed in storytelling and storylistening, they begin to see the form and outline of a new map, which details where they are, and how they got there, and — most importantly — the way to get where they want to go. … Through the practice of hearing and telling stories, we discover and slowly learn to use a new “map,” a map that is more “right” because it is more useful for our purpose. … what happens in the remapping of storylistening and storytelling is that in telling our own story, we come to own the story that we tell.

At times … adulthood seems to consist of fending off others who try to impose on us their ideas of what our roles should be, their versions of our stories. Our spiritual problems stem, at least in part, from the fact that we continue to allow someone else to tell us our story.

Recovering our own story, our own spirituality:

The spiritual leaders recognized as “great” … invited their followers to question the handed-down maps by making their own maps — their own stories. Rather than trying to tell their listeners’ stories, rather than imposing interpretation, the sages and saints told the kind of stories that invited identification. For they understood what the ancients had discovered: The best way to help me find my story is to tell me your story.

More in the extended entry. Continue reading

Semiotics, Symbols, and Storytelling

During my PhD program, one of my doctoral committee members suggested I look into semiotics and storytelling. I was interested, but I had plenty of other storytelling material to digest, so I never explored semiotics, which Wikipedia defines as “the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification and communication, signs … Continue reading