Saturday, September 20, 2008

The big story of a life

Look at the book I just ordered from! I'm very excited about it. This morning first thing I read today's Writer's Almanac email newsletter (which I always do) and discovered today is the anniversary of the day Magellan's crew (18 remaining of 270) made it back to Spain, completing the first successful circumnavigation of the globe. On board was a quiet scholar named Antonio Pigafetta who, similar to the naturalist in Master and Commander meticulously studied and noted everything he found on the ship's three-year voyage. Fascinated by the fact that we know this 500 years later because of the journaling of one person, I thought, "I've got to read that book!" And after a look at it on Google Books (my favorite new find) and reading a little about him on Wikipedia (they don't have much), I found the book here on and ordered it.

Those of us living and working with a sense of narrative may find significant connection in Pigafetta's writings. Circumnavigating the world is what we do through the span of our lives--the world we create, poke, test, change, breathe, love. Capturing it in notebooks, in our hearts, in our language, in gifts we give each other is how we come to understand and share the story. That's what I'm doing with this blog. Just sailing east toward more light and understanding.

I'll post some study notes of the book after I get it. Stay tuned. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A History of Healing

I received this link from a post on the Narrative Medicine listserv this morning: Mental Health Survivors' Movements. It's really a fascinating look at the development of mental health reform and growth in the U.K., from 1845 to the present day. The site offers a staggering number of links and resources--it's perfect if you're preparing a presentation, paper, or simply want to know more about key people, situations, and publications along the way.

See? We're really making progress. Check out the site if you have a moment.

And here's the e-mail address to subscribe to the Narrative Medicine listserv (although I can't find a link on the Columbia site for some reason):

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Life as (a Prerequisite for) Art

I found this story from today's Writer's Almanac fascinating: "It's the birthday of Roald Dahl, born in Llandaff, South Wales (1916). He was sent off to private boarding schools as a kid, which he hated except for the chocolates, Cadbury chocolates. The Cadbury chocolate company had chosen his school as a focus group for new candies they were developing. Every so often, a plain gray cardboard box was issued to each child, filled with 11 chocolate bars. It was the children's task to rate the candy, and Dahl took his job very seriously. About one of the sample candy bars, he wrote, "Too subtle for the common palate." He later said that the experience got him thinking about candy as something manufactured in a factory, and he spent a lot of time imagining what a candy factory might be like. Today, he's best known for his children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

What a great experience to serve as the seedbed for his story--it blossomed from a joyful life raft of an experience while he was in a place he resisted. I wonder whether we all have lift rafts in times like that. How many times have you said, "I never would have gotten through that, if it hadn't been for __________." What is ________ for you? Whatever it is, I'll bet it's central to your story. I know mine is.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who are you?

The more I notice stories around me, the more they begin to multiply and expand and move and change. Stories are very organic, living things--moving almost like streams through consciousness, sometimes full and expansive, sometimes barely trickling and drying up. A person with little access to his or her own story is like a dry creekbed. A person with a rich, rolling, full storyline can be like whitewater rapids (better get out of the way of his raft on that river!).

But I've been noticing more and more how changable and instantly constructed our stories are. We have certain stories we live within--ideals, morals, structure, believes, practices. In our family, we do this, but never that. But in the right context, with the right amount of freedom, with a playful relaxed self, those set descriptors might change--maybe just a bit, maybe a lot.

I'm coming to believe that although we think we carry this great, heavy storyline with us from birth to death, we are actually creating it this moment, in the now. We have great minds and replay who we were (or thought we were, or told ourselves we were) a year ago, three years ago, a decade ago, an hour ago. But we're really constructing that story in this instant.

What do you hear, right now?

What do these characters look like?

How does your left foot feel?

There's your access to your story, arising, in the only moment there ever really is. And now is. And

Something to think about, isn't it? :)