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We Are Stories Unfolding

Updated: May 23, 2021

A spider builds a web from itself, which potentially will provide food and a place to hang while waiting for a meal. The writer creates story by bumping into life situations. E.B. White is one example. His farm in Maine, a web on that farm, an egg sac transported to New York in a box with holes, the spiders that escaped through those holes and built numerous webs in his apartment are part of the life situations that led him to write Charlotte’s Web. You can read more at or in The Story of Charlotte's Web by Michael Sims. Our lives are built upon accumulated life situations. While these are some of the events that led E.B. White to write a particular book, life situations lead in various directions.

Have you ever thought that your life is made up of stories unfolding? We are able to share our story at any place along our timeline. The sharing might be of running away, or a first puppy, or discovering a love of mathematics. Woven together they become a life story. They are an innate and integral part of life. Children make-up stories or listen to or read stories; they even embellish truth when caught in an uncomfortable situation. Books, theatre, television, cinema are story in different formats. In Hawaii, there is an expression ‘to talk story’. Conversation is an acknowledgement that we are story and we learn from our story and others’ stories. Lives intersect, wrap around, collide, and bump into each other. This may bring new ideas, change our point of view, or deepen relationships. Our knowledge of our self, the environment and each other is affected when we listen, question and explore. Pivotal to the learning process, these encounters have the potential to enrich knowledge and awaken awareness.

Reflection further enhances this. We tend to reflect outside of ourselves onto a person or a situation through mental questioning – why does he or she act that way towards me when I have always tried to support, why doesn’t it rain, we need the water, why doesn’t my roommate clean-up after eating. We are challenged by situations and by people. We are often more used to, more comfortable, looking at outside factors and others as the cause and source of life’s challenges. When we are in motion we depend on the intellect to reflect on life. What would happen if instead, we looked at our own story and asked questions such as why am I bothered by his or her behavior, how can I remove myself from the situation or is the relationship important enough that I might make a change? This encourages our own growth and keeps our story moving forward. Self-reflection can deepen personal growth, a process requiring cultivation and time with one’s self.

Our present situation of social distancing and isolation is a dramatic example of this. All of a sudden we are stopped. Thrown into a limited context, given forced time to self reflect rather than bouncing off the rapid motion of life. Self-reflection requires a quieter space that allows us to turn inward. If we have a meditation or yoga practice, or spend time quietly in nature we re-center, relax from stress and tension which can bring clarity and calmness, creating a more centered way of responding to life situations.

In a written story the author chooses the place, time, where, to whom and how life situations will unfold. Through the characters we see how choices affect that character’s story and witness their decisions and their potential for change. Edmund, in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe betrays his brothers and sisters, but through his experiences develops compassion. When he becomes king he is known as King Edmund the Just. Charlotte’s Web juxtaposes Fern, who begs her father to let her raise a runt pig rather killing it. Her brother, Avery, late to the situation just assumes he also deserves a pig. In the barn Fern is quiet and compassionate, Avery disruptive, almost knocking Charlotte off her web. Sharing stories entertains but can also be a form of knowledge. Self-reflection on story, no matter the format brings the potential for change.

For me, life is about growing, and changing, and caring for others as well as for our self. Story brings comfort and strength, can raise awareness, whether it is a grandmother telling the secret of life as in The Source of All Things ( in this story collection, or a mother leaving her land and reciting the stories of her people, in the Night Skies ( Story takes us away to other realms, entertains, but it can also raise awareness in the same way as life experience. We are given clues and asked to take what we are given from the environment, from other people, from nature and move forward. Individual reflection affects community, the environment and the planet on which we live. Story written encapsulates a plethora of experiences into specific character experiences. The awareness of the reader informs story. Story linked to self-reflection and awareness becomes powerful, instructive, and illuminating.

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