There’re so many things to believe in, we have to choose what we’ll act upon.
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is … in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”*
The most tragic of lives is the one failing to complete belief in anything. We can think of this as completing a story.
In the morning, I gather up whispers from different places and people. Often these are whispers anyone can collect but they may be overlooked or they weave together in permutations others cannot see. I wonder how they may be woven into my life and the lives of others. This is my story but the same things happen in all our lives.
I hear the things I hear because I’m following my storyline – you may call yours something different.
Native Australians have songlines, or dreaming tracks. Gwendolyn Brooks speaks of our poems. John O’Donohue of our prayers. And Warren Berger of our questions.
‘Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.’**
‘Instead of hoping that you’ll emerge from a meeting with “the answer” (which almost never happens and thus leaves people feeling frustrated), the goal is to come out of it with a few promising and powerful questions – which is likely to provide a sense of direction and momentum.’^
Questions are what we have in abundance, from where we find ourselves touching the earth and the lives within it – O’Donohue reminding us of our incredible opportunity:
‘We have received everything, even the opportunity to come to earth and walk awake in this wondrous universe.’**
Brooks writes her life as a poem:
“Yet I know
that I am Poet!
I pass you my Poem.
My poem is life, and not finished.
It shall never be finished.
My poem is life, and can grow.”^^
The words of our poems (storylines, songlines, prayers, questions) are not pleasant and sweet things, they emerge from our real lives. They begin here not there:
“This is the time for Big Poems.
Roaring up out of sleaze,
poems from ice, from vomit, and from tainted blood.
This is the time for stiff or viscous poems.
Big and Big.”^^
Brené Brown reminds us we are storytelling animals and sometimes our stories are complete fabrications: why we did what we did, why they did what they did. Our need for honour, nobility, and enlightenment causes us to rewrite the truth about our motives, thoughts, feelings, and actions. But, as Brooks reminds us, our story begins here not there, and this is a thing of hope.
When we get defensive we also get stuck. Good storylines help get us unstuck, help us complete our belief.
Joseph Campbell speaks of our need for societal and personal myth. He also speaks about how life is so fast these myths aren’t forming for us. Myths aren’t untruths. They are great stories that lead us out of our stuckness. Karen Anderson describes myths in their original sense:
‘A myth was an attempt to express some of the more elusive aspects of life that cannot easily be expressed in logical, discursive speech. […] The myth of the hero told people what they had to do to unlock their own heroic potential.”*^
Our storylines help us to identify and live out the most important beliefs we have.
Chris Guillebeau offers some useful advice for where to begin:
‘Be attentive to what happens when you lose yourself in the moment.’^*
You’re likely touching your storyline already. And the more people who do this, the greater the possibility that we’ll change some things. Seth Godin’s list of systems, here, could be longer but he reminds us well enough, systems are only people:
‘There is no industry, no economy, no market. Only poeople. And people, people can take action if they care.’⁺
(*Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(^From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(^^Gwendolyn Brooks, from Maria Popova’s BrainPickings.)
(*^From Karen Anderson’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)
(^*From Chris Guillebau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.)
(⁺From Seth Godin’s There is no ‘The Industry‘.)