First thing in the morning I make my tea, sit in the red chair, and read the early Christian mystics. Then Gwyn wakes, curls in my lap, and we read Greek myths. I bustle off to work where I write stories, read emerging writers’ stories, review published stories, and teach others how to create effective stories. I return home to Gwyn listening to an audio book. I read magazines on the toilet. I listen to Gwyn read her homework. I tell her a bedtime story. Finally, exhausted, I curl up with a good novel.
I’m steeped in stories.
When I take the stuff of my life and make it into a story, I feel myself and my world transformed. I come alive. I participate in ongoing creation. One of my greatest delights is that I get to support others in this work. When I teach writing, I help others know the “aliveness” that, as Ann Belford Ulanov says, “springs from our making something of what we experience and receiving what experience makes of us.”
Is it any wonder, then, that my most intimate name for God is Story?
Recently I came across this comment from John Makransky, a professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, which at first blush might seem antithetical to my sensibilities but actually got me excited: We need to be liberated from our own stories.
We Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Humanists, etc., need each other to liberate us from our own stories. … The stories of our own tradition are foundational for us, orienting us to our religious identities and ways of being and understanding. But we all tend to get caught in the stories of our own tradition; imprisoned in them in ways not fully conscious to us. We get caught in a kind of idolatry that clings too exclusively, in too limited a way, to our own culturally conditioned current understandings of our own stories.
Makransky goes on to say that we’re dependent on people of different faiths to “interrupt our own narratives and point beyond them to more of the richness of human perspectives and experiences, thereby opening us to further possible meanings in our own stories.” He sees interreligious dialogue as a way to remove ourselves from the limitations of our stories and invite ourselves into ever-more expansive understandings.
Amen to that! But this is also the work of revision, which asks us to see our stories in this new light, and then that, and that. We jam our experiences into a box and come to love that box, but the work of writing—the work of evolving—requires unpacking the box and building a new one, perhaps a bit more fitting, and then discovering a cloth bag works better, and finally realizing that all these containers are marvelous but incapable of holding the true glory which is our story.
Then we honor that mystery by making a story about it. And so on. Hooray! –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew
Please join me in the delightful work of making stories:
Second Fridays; 1:30-3:30 p.m.: Spiritual Memoir drop-in sessions, Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality.
November 11: Place
December 9: Symbols & Metaphors
Want to hear some great stories? Participants in the Book Binders’ Salon will read from works-in-progress on Tuesday, December 6th at 7 p.m. in the front lobby at 2615 Park Avenue, Minneapolis. Hope to see you there!
SAVE THE DATE: October 2-6, 2017: Alone Together: Living Revision at Madeline Island School of the Arts.