The Story Is Not Who I Am (from Within My Illusions & Artwise Poetry Roulette Cards)
The tale began long before I was born, winding In strands as time spirals the story in all directions. Each moment is but one twist in the narrative, One glimpse which does not make a whole, Imagining who I was in yesterday Based on a self I see today As I am rippling out into tomorrow.
I've noticed a repeated refrain in articles, newsletters, blog posts: We live in unprecedented times. I've heard it so often, I've come to take it for granted as the truth of the matter. But as I read the phrase in yet another email this week, something about it irked me and sparked a conversation in my mind between me and me.
Me: We live in unprecedented times?
Me: Yeah, but aren’t all times unprecedented in their own way? Don't we live in a world that is continually unfolding, evolving, expanding, growing? Isn't every bit of matter in perpetual motion?
Me: And what about the notion that all life exists in cycles within cycles within cycles? Stories repeated, retold, archetypal patterns reflected and refracted as a sort of holographic overlay?
Me: Sure, but right now feels so different than anything else we've ever experienced. Doesn't that make it unprecedented by definition?
Me: What if both are true: that these times are both extraordinary and ordinary, unique and unexceptional?
My inner dialogue brought to mind the novel Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, one of my favorite books (a book that changed my life, really), which artfully plays with the idea of our agency as the storytellers of experience.
Human beings, it is said, are "wired for storytelling." Storytelling as information sharing. Storytelling as meaning making. Storytelling as connection. But sometimes it's easy to get so tangled up in one story that we forget that stories are symbols, representations of a reality too vast to be confined. Similar to making maps of constellations in the sky to create organization and structure in an infinite universe, we map our lives through the stories we tell.
We are both writing the stories and being written by them. I wonder what the story of "unprecedented times" offers and evokes? What might the frame of another story make possible? How can we, with each unprecedented moment available to us, weave a collective story of possibility and hope, for ourselves, for each other, and for all?
p.s. - You can listen to a recording of this week's poem in my spoken word album, Within My Illusions (The Listening Experience), which is available on all streaming platforms and available for download from my website. It's the last poem of the last track if you want to skip right to it...but why not listen to the whole album along the way? :)