Stories Matter…Tell Me About it

I noticed the following article and thought it worth sharing for those who missed it:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/04/realizing-we-the-people-one-person-at-a-time/?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad

There are so many things to fight about; so many things about which we can passionately disagree. Why do we do this and what do we hope to accomplish?

I can think of a few good answers:

1. We want to persuade others who are mistaken to a correct understanding of the issue involved;

2. We want company in our beliefs;

3. We want to vanquish and humiliate an opponent (!);

4. We want to win a plurality of votes for election to an office that will enable us to bring our view of how things should be to reality through the exercise of elected power.

People do not enjoy being wrong and views don’t change easily, so if we want to change the world, we should think carefully and have a strategy.

The author of the piece referenced above suggests that stories can bridge the gap between doctrinal stubbornness and empathy.

Have you ever wondered why the bond of friendship can be strained so quickly in the crucible of an animated discussion. It heals, but the heat of disagreement does not enhance understanding as the temperature cools. We just regain equilibrium and resolve to avoid such discussions in the future.

There must be a better way than avoidance. Our wants are not vastly different: a sense of purpose; family and friends close; good food and drink; adequate leisure time; health and well being; and a clear sense of progress. Why so much disagreement about how we achieve these things?

As a people, we tell stories a lot. They explain our lives, our understanding of how and why things happen. They provide humor; they convey sorrow; they astound and sadden us; provide a cause for celebration. How was your day? What happened to make you happy or sad? Stories connect my reality to yours. It is not the same, but storiesĀ help us draw closer.

Stories are not all. We need a sense of how the forest is shaped; where it needs to be trimmed and contained and thinned. Stories alone may just get us from tree to tree without a strong sense of direction. And yet….while we may shape the forest, we are not bigger than it: we live among the trees. We live in the present, shaping history. Stories describe our every day.

This story began, as many people’s days do, with a story from a newspaper that often irritates me but is never dull and leaves me lots to think about (blog about).

One of E.M. Forster’s most famous phrases is “Only Connect”. He is on record as saying the things he valued most were personal relationships, tolerance and the pleasure to be had from the world into which we are born. Through personal relationships, Forster said, we can practice tolerance, experience understanding, exercise empathy and help others to experience pleasure also.

It is hard to connect and violently disagree. Stories help. Tell me more.