Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The story we tell about ourselves

A pastoral counselor once told me that the best advice he can give people is to learn to tell their story differently. “The stories we tell about ourselves,” he said, “give our life its meaning. If we tell ourselves we are failures, we fail. If we tell ourselves the world is out to get us, we’re not being paranoid. It turns out to be true. But if we tell ourselves we are the forgiven children of the Most High God, it’s hard not to see the good in ourselves and others.”

Mircea Eliade speaks of religious ritual as the constant re-telling of the myths of human origin so as to give meaning to life here and now. What makes us human is this ability to give life meaning. With apologies to RenĂ© Descartes, who said, “I think, therefore I am,” and got it only partially right, I think it’s far more accurate to say, “We tell stories; therefore we are.”

Mine? A skeptical, musical, scientific rationalist whose world fell apart so it could be refashioned in the language and rhythm of poetry, historical critical method, ecumenism and liturgy. Pretty messed up, eh? Not really.

What story do you tell about yourself? I expect it shapes who you become.