Why The Stories We Tell Matter

I was thinking about stories over the weekend.

After all my art is powered by stories.

We tell stories about ourselves, both as individuals and as a culture.

For example, I tell the story that I’m an artist. A painter. And I paint boldly.

I also tell the story that I had a hard upbringing. That I spent many years hiding, trying to be invisible, because that’s how I learned to be safe.

Then there’s the story of how I changed my life suddenly about two years ago after a certain death experience.

You can read about it here

And there are other stories I no longer tell about myself. I don’t think about them anymore because they don’t fit.

There are stories we tell about each other. She’s loud. He’s a jerk. That person is always willing to help.

Our species loves to put labels on everything and everyone.

But when we go bigger and look at the stories we tell about ourselves as a culture, things get interesting. And conflicted.

There are so many stories of the underdog taking on the government, a big enemy or some kind of insurmountable force. And they win through sheer luck and a little karma. The Hobbit, Star Wars and Firefly/Serenity immediately come to mind.

There are ugly stories of good intentions and bad outcomes. Like the most recent Marvel movie, Captain America Civil War, where the destruction the heroes created outweighed their accomplishments.

And more stories where humanity is discarded in favour of a buck. Sell firearms to third world nations. No one cares who lives or dies, just make money and look away. The Lord of War, among others.

There’s a lot on both big and small screen I don’t even watch. Stories about corporate ladder climbing. Office politics. He said, she said.

Game of Thrones comes to mind for me. There’s a lot of that going on and I couldn’t continue watching it. I want us to be better as a species. To pull together rather than stab each other to get ahead.

So many stories we tell about ourselves. And consume in the watching or reading, which then continue to define us.

And I got to thinking, which stories are right? Which ones should we reject as a whole? Or is there value in the telling of even the ugly ones? That we accept our seedy underbelly and expose it to be examined.

Stories are the most powerful things we have both individually and as a culture. The shine a light on us in ways I don’t think were always intentioned.

That we see ourselves as scrappy underdogs fighting for what’s right. And we see ourselves as unethical people causing more harm than good.

But going back to individually, because that’s where everything starts. One person part of a whole. What kind of stories do you tell about yourself?

How do you define you?

Because I know, for me, rejecting certain stories that I always told about myself, changed my world. Changed how I moved through the world.

But the first step to changing your world is realizing what you’re saying in the first place.
Did you know?

I’m not in favour of censorship at all. And I certainly wouldn’t want to reject art, writing or movies based on what I deem, or anyone deems, acceptable.

But it does bear thinking that what we create is a reflection of ourselves as a culture. So what are we saying about us?

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