Each of us has stories: the stories that are chapters of our life.
"Come, rather," then she said, "dear guest, and tell us
From the beginning the Greek stratagems…"
The room fell silent, and all eyes were on him,
As Father Aeneas from his high couch began…
- Virgil, The Aeneid
To hear another's stories is to enter the drama of his life. Often, it is also to learn a part of our own story. Yet the lives of many of those closest to us — including our own parents and grandparents, or our dear friends — can remain a closed book to us.
It is in our power to open these books, but it will take a specific effort. We have lost the habits and contexts of story-telling and of generational sharing. As a result, we — and especially the young — have become prey to the narratives that dominate the airwaves of life today. News and other media outlets, the all-pervasive marketing industry, and the brokers of entertainment and social media: these all act powerfully to impose their narratives on our life.
The art of story-telling is an art of sharing a better narrative, one more personal, contextualized, and expressive of our principles and worldview. This concerns each of us, and we all can do something. Now is the time to act.
Those who are older (even if not very 'old') will need to step forward; we/they have something to say that needs to be heard.
We can take initiative in expressing interest and in making contexts for story-telling. This is not easy today. A few generations ago a holiday meal was a natural context, since people gathered in homes with few distractions.
Today we must choose to turn off many things — computers, mobile devices, televisions, etc., and, of course, say no to the incessant call to shop. All this, so we can say yes to presence and connection: one key form of which is story-telling.
Our elders have no expectation that we want to hear their stories or that there will be a context for them to be heard. We can change that. Those who are older (even if not very 'old') will need to step forward; we/they have something to say that needs to be heard. The feeling of 'what do I have to share' must be overcome.
What was it like growing up where and when you did? How did you meet your spouse, or your friends? How were you educated? Where did you work? What adventures did you have? What helped you get through difficult times? What might you do differently? What about the stories you heard from your elders? To those who love you, these stories are life-giving, and only you can tell them.
What better time to make space for story-telling and life-sharing than at our Thanksgiving gathering and the upcoming Christmas season? It will take some effort and some re-arranging of our plans. But the pay-off will be beyond reckoning.
Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics.
John A. Cuddeback. "Thanksgiving: A Time for Story-Telling." LifeCraft (November 24, 2021).
Reprinted with permission from the author, John A. Cuddeback.
Image: Albert Anker (Swiss, 1831-1910)
John A. Cuddeback is chairman and professor of Philosophy at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. He is the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness and Aristotle's Ethics: A Guide to Living the Good Life. He and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children — and a few pigs and sundry — in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. He blogs at life-craft.org.Copyright © 2021 John A. Cuddeback
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