human beings are born in a state
of ignorance. When we arrive in this sphere of existence,
us has a clue as to what is going on. We have to learn the
language and become oriented. Every society has its stories
to inform new members about the way things are here. And
we hear these explanations and accountings from our families, teachers
and friends, we are inclined to believe them.
Our informants, of course,
were born ignorant,
too, and are just proceeding on the basis of what somebody once told
But so united in agreement is everyone around us, and so compelling is
the ongoing local activity, that we tend not to think too much about
sources and reliability of the stories we are hearing, but rather to
them as given.
And yet it is quite clear that
we hear and accept for true depends completely on the circumstances of
our birth. We believe we are who and what we are told we are
people in different times and cultures and classes have had very
tales to tell.
Human stories disagree and
disagree and disagree.
And when they do, we know which ones are to be relied upon and which
Our stories -- whoever we
happen to be --
are right. Everybody else's are doubtful or worse.
Just look how mistaken the
stories of former
times were. And as recently as yesterday, too.
Nor were they off target just
one time, or
in one way. To the extent that we can recover the wisdom of
it's one set of bizarre yarns after another. When you look at
all, it has to seem a wonder that we ever managed to get here from
Many stories are told today, too, by
people on the
other side of the world, the other side of campus, or the other side of
the street, which are incompatible with the stories we swear
We know what that has to mean. Those stories are wrong,
Because if they aren't, then our stories must be, and that would leave
us dangling in the middle of nothing with no foundation. Just
As it is, we're uniquely
of all the people living now or who've ever lived, it seems that it is
we who are specially privileged to be the ones with the true scoop.
What a comfort to know.
Except that when we're in a
state of mind
to examine our own rationales and constructions more closely than we
do, and are honest enough to say what's really there and what isn't, we
have to acknowledge that the tales we tell are less than airtight,
They display their own share of unknowns, contradictions, vaguenesses,
gaps and exclusions.
It seems that story is all
people have to
live by...but every story that we tell is limited and flawed.
should we make of that?
Well, for one thing, if you
add up all the
stories we've told, it looks as though at one time or another people
been ready to believe just about any damn thing and attempt to live as
though it were really so.
Not only that, but --
strangely and wonderfully
-- all these many different incompatible and mistaken stories appear to
work, at least for as long and as well as they do work. Some
queerest -- by contemporary standards -- managed to work for a very
It appears that the ground of
underlies and sustains us despite our various inadequate and
stories must be extremely tolerant, generous and forgiving.
All things considered, it
wouldn't hurt if
we were, too.
A story is a
sequential linking of one state
or condition with another, a series of "and thens." Story is
said: "And so, all the
lands of the world came to swim in an immense ocean contained in the
of a great frog. The frog sits upon a turtle. The
on the back of an elephant. The elephant stands upon a rock."
He nodded then to indicate
that the story
was over. He was asked: "And what is under the rock holding
"A story," he said, indicating
a height with
"And what is under that?"
"And beneath that?"
The storyteller said, "It's
stories all the
No tale tells
everything we say is a story elaborated
out of previous story.
A metaphor is a story in a
word. It says that
one thing is another.
Every sentence has a story to
We cannot open our mouths to
uttering story. We cannot help ourselves. Language
Semanticist Alfred Korzybski
wanted us to
be more aware than we usually are that we are telling stories, and that
what we say is incomplete and contingent, and not reality. He
us that the map is not the territory. Those were
He also objected that use of the word "is" -- as in "language is
-- is partial and misleading and recommended that it be
Yet watch his words as he would, Korzybski was no more able than the
of us to stop using the verb of existence and identity.
whether he liked it or not, was a storymaker.
Scientists and objectivists
tell their stories
in rigidly framed sentences using the most inert metaphors they can
They are still telling stories.
that our most
respected studies and sciences aren't truly authoritative after all,
are only so many stories. Even as they do this, they're
Story is the
one aspect of society which reflects
all aspects of society.
said: "The fact of thinking
in terms of stories does not isolate human beings as something separate
from the starfish and the sea anemone, the coconut palms and the
Rather, if the world be connected, if I am at all fundamentally right
what I am saying, then thinking in terms of stories must be shared by
mind or minds, whether ours or those of redwood forests and sea
The value of a
story is not measured by what
one person or another is able to make of it, but by what it includes
what it connects and what it makes possible.
is a story. Everything
which has being in time is a story within a story.
Story is inherent in the
of time. Story is the means by which an evolutionary universe
itself, connecting and transforming, connecting and transforming,
A rock is a very simple story.
Living beings are more
complex, active and
meaningful stories. What distinguishes us among living
is the degree to which we have internalized story. We don't
mark time like a rock, or express the pattern of our kind like the
forest and the sea anemone. We think story. We act
We make stories of our lives. We connect and transform.
We are only so-so good at it
If we were more aware that
what we are doing, we might be more ready to change our stories when
need to be changed. If we were less attached to the stories we tell, we
might be better at reconciling our stories when they have to be
We're also prone to forget that if we are going to be active creators
story, we are under an obligation to tell the best and most useful
that we can conceive.
But if the universe is story,
and the evolution
of life on this planet is story, and our striving to complete our
is story, then we're on the right track.
Material - Take a