stories

At first she thought the writing would be easy. She was extremely confident in her ability to dream, to imagine, and she supposed that expressing her dreams in words, in writing, would be entirely natural, like drawing breath. She had read widely from the time she was a child, and she knew how to recognize something that was well written. She admired certain lines and passages so much that she had taken complete possession of them and committed them to memory. She could recite “The Gettysburg Address” and “The Twenty-Third Psalm.” She could recite “Jabberwocky” and Emily Dickinson’s “Further in summer that the birds” and Wallace Stevens’s “Sunday Morning.” She knew by heart the final paragraph of Joyce’s “The Dead,” and if challenged she could say in whole the parts of both Romeo and Juliet. And she knew many Kiowa stories and many long prayers in Navajo. These were not feats of memory in the ordinary sense; it was simply that she attended to these things so closely that they became a part of her most personal experience. She had assumed them, appropriated them to her being.
But to write! She discovered that was something else again.

The one who tells the stories rules the world. - Hopi

We have the right, and the obligation, to tell old stories in our own ways, because they are our stories.

Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.

We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write.

Many "educated citizens" take it for granted that reality is what scientists say it is and that other opinions may be recorded, but need not be taken seriously. But science offers not one story, it offers many; the stories clash and their relation to a story-independent "reality" is as problematic as the relation of the Homeric epics to an alleged "Homeric world."

In the art of literature there are two contending parties. Those who aim to tell stories that are more or less well thought out, and those who aim at beautiful language, beauty of form. This contest may last a very long time; each side has a fifty-fifty chance. Only the poet can rightfully demand that verse be beautiful and nothing but.

Borges said there are only four stories to tell: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power and the voyage. All of us writers rewrite these same stories ad infinitum… Behind the mask of ice that people wear, there beats a heart of fire… Being human means having doubts and yet still continuing on your path… Because there are no ends, there are only means… But before I die, I want to fight for life… But choose your way and follow it to the end.

We always have a tendency to see those things that do not exist and to be blind to the great lessons that are right there before our eyes… We always have the necessary resources to face the storms that life throws at us, but most of the time, those resources are locked up in the depths of our heart and we waste an enormous amount of time trying to find them. By the time we've found them, we already been defeated by adversity… We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand… We are all pilgrims in search of the unknown.

Sometimes I go days or weeks without hearing a single kind word from anyone. These are difficult times, then it seems that human goodness is gone and life seems just existence. The teacher said: We need to explore their own fireplace. We need to add more fuel to try to illuminate the dark room that has become our lives. When we hear that our fire and burning wood boom throws sparks when read stories passionately told, us back hope. If we are able to love us and we can love. This is only a matter of time… Sometimes the best of God’s gifts arrive by the shattering of all the window panes.

There are many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream -- whatever that dream might be.

As the index tells us the contents of stories and directs to the particular chapter, even so does the outward habit and superficial order of garments (in man or woman) give us a taste of the spirit, and demonstratively point (as it were a manual note from the margin) all the internal quality of the soul; and there cannot be a more evident, palpable, gross manifestation of poor, degenerate, dunghilly blood and breeding than a rude, unpolished, disordered, and slovenly outside.

There are indeed many wonders, and with regard to the stories people tell one another, it may be that such tales go beyond the true account and, embellished with iridescent lies, beguile them.

The seaman tells stories of winds, the ploughman of bulls; the soldier details his wounds, the shepherd his sheep.

The following points are intended to amplify my meaning: 1. All children are born to grow, to develop, to live, to love, and to articulate their needs and feelings for their self-protection. 2. For their development, children need to the respect and protection of adults who take them seriously, love them, and honestly help them to become oriented in the world. 3. When these vital needs are frustrated and children are, instead, abused for the sake of the adults' needs by being exploited, beaten, punished, taken advantage of, manipulated neglected, or deceived without the intervention of any witness, then their integrity will be lastingly impaired. 4. The normal reactions to such injury should be anger and pain. Since children in this hurtful kind of environment are forbidden to express their anger, however, and since it would be unbearable to experience their pain all alone, they are compelled to suppress their feelings, repress all memory of the trauma, and idealize those guilty of the abuse. Later they will have no memory of what was done to them. 5. Disassociated from the original cause, their feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, longing, anxiety, and pain will find expression in destructive acts against others (criminal behavior, mass murder) or against themselves (drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, psychic disorders, suicide). 6. If these people become parents, they will then often direct acts of revenge for their mistreatment in childhood against their own children, whom they use as scapegoats. Child abuse is still sanctioned -- indeed, held in high regard -- in our society as long as it is defined as child-rearing. It is a tragic fact that parents beat their children in order to escape the emotions from how they were treated by their own parents. 7. If mistreated children are not to become criminals or mentally ill, it is essential that at least once in their life they come in contact with a person who knows without any doubt that the environment, not the helpless, battered child, is at fault. In this regard, knowledge or ignorance on the part of society can be instrumental in either saving or destroying a life. Here lies the great opportunity for relatives, social workers, therapists, teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, officials and nurses to support the child and believe in her or him. 8. Till now, society has protected the adult and blamed the victim. It has been abetted in its blindness by theories, still in keeping with the pedagogical principles of our great-grandparents, according to which children are viewed as crafty creatures, dominated by wicked drives, who invent stories and attack innocent parents or desire them sexually. In reality, children tend to blame themselves for their parents' cruelty and to absolve their parents, whom they invariably love [I would say 'need' - SH] of all responsibility. 9. For some years now, it has been possible to prove, through new therapeutic methods, that repressed traumatic experiences of childhood are stored up in the body and, though unconscious, exert an influence even in adulthood. In addition, electronic testing of the fetus has revealed a fact previously unknown to most adults -- that a child responds to and learns both tenderness and cruelty from the very beginning. 10. In the light of this new knowledge, even the most absurd behavior reveals its formerly hidden logic once the traumatic experiences of childhood need no longer remain shrouded in darkness. 11. Our sensitization to the cruelty with which children are treated, until now commonly denied, and to the consequences of such treatment will as a matter of course bring an end to the perpetuation of violence from generation to generation. 12. People whose integrity has not been damaged in childhood, who were protected, respected, and treated with honesty by their parents, will be -- both in their youth and in adulthood -- intelligent, responsive, empathic and highly sensitive. They will take pleasure in life and will not feel any need to kill or even hurt others or themselves. They will use their power to defend themselves, not to attack others. They will not be able to do otherwise than respect and protect those weaker than themselves, including their own children, because this is what they have learned from their own experience, and because it is this knowledge (and not the experience of cruelty) that has been stored up inside them from the beginning. It will be inconceivable to such people that earlier generations had to build up a gigantic war industry in order to feel comfortable and safe in this world. Since it will not be their unconscious drive in life to ward off intimidation experienced at a very early age, they will be able to deal with attempts at intimidation in their adult life more rationally and creatively.

Over the last several years, there has been a dramatic increase in media stories of abducted & abused children. Where there has not been an increase in the overall numbers of such cases, many families, and children, are more fearful. I have pushed for legislation that would appoint a national coordinator for AMBER alerts, and alert system for missing children; provide additional protections for children, and establish stricter punishments for sex offenders. That legislation passed the Congress in 2003.

Everybody is a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don't do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.

When we haven't the time to listen to each other's stories we seek out experts to tell us how to live. The less time we spend together at the kitchen table, the more how-to books appear in the stores and on our bookshelves. But reading such books is a very different thing than listening to someone' s lived experience. Because we have stopped listening to each other we may even have forgotten how to listen, stopped learning how to recognize meaning and fill ourselves from the ordinary events of our lives. We have become solitary; readers and watchers rather than sharers and participants.

Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.

All of the good, weird stories I