I read this quote recently which seemed to follow a familliar furrow on this blog;
The significance—and ultimately the quality—of the work we do is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.Wendell Berry
I went looking on t’internet to see if I could find where this quote is from, and to my slight disgust, I found it emblazoned on motivational posters and used to promote business success speak. It occurred to me that most people who use Wendell Berry quotes have not read much of what he wrote. Then it occurred to me that I was being an intellectual snob because I have not read much of what he wrote either, beyond a few poems here and there…
Quotes like this are used to tell stories, even when the quote is reminding us that it is the story that matters most.
The absence of a story makes us sick.
But not all stories are equal.
A song comes to mind;
I am entering a new season. After being being cloistered for some time, locked into my own world of words and distractions, I am trying once more to connect with others, to get out into the flow, to chase stories that matter. (More of this below…)
I don’t think we can do this on our own.
Partly, we need story tellers. We need people who tell stores of better, of more whole, of more beautiful, of more peaceful. Perhaps they will tell old stores or perhaps they will be brand new.
I did a little review of stories that have been important to me on this blog. Here are some of them, in no particular order;
Recovery stories of those who have trancended their mental illness stories.
Post-pandemic stories that have callenged previously accepted narratives.
Economic stories in which we change the relationship between communities and global commerce.
Religious stories in which we find ourselves, if we can see beyond the religion.
Political stories and the limitation of these stories if you carry idealism.
I won’t go on – suffice it to say that I remain convinced that our society, saturated as it is by a constant deluge of information, has lost our stories. Or rather we have allowed our stories to be told for us by corporations for whom our only value is that of consumer. Where is the magic, the mystery and the majesty in that?
Far be it from me to make my blog about…me, but I mentioned the start of a new season.
Part of this is to take my latest book – concerned as it is with these ideas of a better story for a post pandemic world – on the road. The poster above is the first of these events, and underlines the degree to which it is not possible to find new stories on your own. These things would never happen without those who would host them, Michaela who organises them, Yvonne and the other musicians who play at them – not to mention people who come to be part of them.
In other news, in conspiration with a couple of friends (fellow poets Chris Fosten and Vicky Allen) we will shortly be launching a new podcast, named (Theo)Poetics, exploring the connection between meaning-making and poetry. Or at least this is what I think it will be about but all good things evolve.
In order to find new stories, we need to articulate them first.
That is not the same thing as inventing them, but unless stories are told together, they are not real, they are just merchandise on a shelf.