This signature process that Storywise.com (The Center for Narrative Studies) invented over 20 years ago is a powerful process that claims that in any group or family, community or organization, there is hidden treasure, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
What is it, you ask? No- it’s not the antiques that are hidden away in the basement. It’s not the photo albums from the Civil War. No. It is the stories that we all carry, the stories that have shaped our lives. The problem however for any community is that they never know how to excavate and find, refine and share. Communities are starving for not feeding off their own history. They are experience rich and story poor. That means so much of the hard won lessons of life are lost, never to be passed on.
What we have learned in the constant application of Living Stories to hundreds of communities and organizations is that in any community, there are 6-8 stories, each with the power to
-break our hearts
-heal our hurts
-unite a community on a deeper level
-call us to different future
-inspire us to mercy and reconciliation
-celebrate our vulnerability with humor
-make us fall in love
-shock into a new understanding
COUNTING THE YEARS IN STORIES
The Alpha faith community is one group that we have been privileged to serve for over twenty years. There are 25+ people whose average age is 80 and that adds up to 2000 years. How does one honor 2000 years of human experience, experience that in the COVID19 crisis, is more under threat than ever?
When a 90 year old dies, it is like a giant redwood falling in the forest. How can life while we live it be so precious and when it ebbs, be so expendable? What wisdom is lost because it is not ever allowed to be offered, from one generation to the next. And how much else is lost because of that neglect?
STORIES WILL SHAPE US REGARDLESS
What makes it even more ironic is that even if the stories are not told, they are still telling. The stories are not simply words and memories. Living Stories shape our minds and bodies and hopes and hates. Our parent’s stories live embodied in our flesh like their genes do. But part of growing into our own lives is the storywise moment- that occasion that life affords us in crises where we must shape the stories that are shaping us. That is the moral urgency of the Living Stories work.
THE TRAGEDY OF LOST WISDOM
In 1919, the so called Spanish Flu took 50 million lives across the globe, but somehow in this country, we have no memory and no oral tradition of what a people endured and what they learned. Or if there were stories, they died out with the flu. There are complex reasons for that- one being that the Government wanted to stay in the euphoria of winning World War One, and not plunge a weary nation back into another story of suffering. Though President Wilson almost died of the flu at Versailles, he never mentioned the pandemic publicly. Not having that memory of inherited wisdom, we experienced COVID19 as totally unprecedented when in fact it was no such thing. Thus, the deadly mistakes we made back then, we had to learn the hard way all over again.
IN THE YEAR OF THE PLAGUE
The stories coming at us, screaming day and night from the media, and from the political pundits are dissonant and alarming. They are like what Saint Paul called a resounding gong and a clanging symbol. So it is high time to declare this storywise moment where we grab back our story.
Instead of the stories from outside penetrating inside to make us anxious or enraged, what if we offered Living Stories to every community who wants it, and invite the community to powerfully declare their own wisdom, to share the stories that they think need to be told in reply to the disaster that still threatens to engulf us.
Living Stories will ensure that if our kids or grandkids have to face another national disaster long after we are gone, they will have the stories that we want to put on the record. That will remind us and them about what matters, what we must never forget, or what will get us through to better days.
What is the enduring wisdom these months of pandemic and civil unrest are drawing out of us? We are used to being told to wear our masks and keep socially distant, but no one is insisting on the best but most neglected disaster relief practice- to tell the stories as our insurance against the great forgetting. It happened in 1919 with the Spanish Flu. We forgot to remember. Now it is time to invest the future with the stories that a community deems as the most powerful representation of their lived experience and the stories that they want to guide us and lead us forward.
Are you a family spread across the nation or globe?
Are you a faith community, an organization that is struggling to stay afloat?
Are you a retirement village that has been locked down and isolated?
Are you a first responder team that have not had time to harvest the stories of your service?
Are you a professional group that have networked to maintain solidarity and support?
No matter what community you live in, Storywise is offering you a Living Stories Event that we will convene virtually in your community through ZOOM. The process is facilitated step by step and at the end of it, a community will have discovered their own hidden treasure, a set of stories that will go on the record, that will not just be stowed away in an archive but be Living, Breathing Stories that will revitalize, resurrect, and restore hope, and be shared community to community.
This is different from other story events like the Moth or This American Life or StoryCorps. This is a community celebration. It does not call for professional storytellers, or even any training to tell a story other than inside the event itself. The community we believe knows intuitively how to tell their story. All the Living Stories does is first give a community permission- tell your story. Second, it gives them a simple way to find and elevate the stories that mean the most in our time. And it brings back to oral memory, these stories that we want to speak down through time, for all time.
COSTS- $5.00 per person.