I use the expression Homo Narrativus (coined by others, as I have recently learned) to frame the primary human cognitive orientation to conceive of our life experiences as either linear-serial, cyclic, or random episodic narrative events (see Your Life Path, 2020; Better Endings, 2022). For as far back as we can trace language, every human or hominid society has had a storytelling culture. We reflect upon and relate to others about our life experiences—even our dreams—in narrative form. We construct our life history in terms of narrative episodes. We each possess, and develop over our lifetimes, a Life Story that in large part defines as well as expresses our individual identity as embedded within our collective cultural Whole.
We are Storytellers. And the stories we tell, both to ourselves and others, are time capsules: seeds that inform and influence the further unfolding of events that either complete or transform our Life Story narrative and hence that affect the development of our own—and significant others’—character arcs over time.
This is why telling and reflecting on our own and others’ stories matters so much: they are the stuff of myth and legend as well as the foundations of our own Life Path.
Any story conveys a message linking past, present, and future as a meaningful whole; a narrative moment that encapsulates lessons either learned or not, repeated or abandoned.
Your story…what I call in this blog your MyStory…is a gold mine to explore and to reveal. Your story feeds not only your own unfoldment but is a seed that can nourish others.
Why do we read and tell bedtime stories to our children or watch television serials or watch some films over and over again? This is how we understand the dramatic and mythic contours of life itself and one another.
So I encourage you to journal about your MyStory, to reflect upon the meaning of your own uniquely informative story seeds!
images are from pixabay.com
As a lighter way of thinking about all this, I am reminded of one of my favorite movies: Stranger than Fiction. The plot itself works precisely because it acknowledges the universal human experience of living our lives as Story. The main character Harold (played brilliantly by Will Ferrell), an IRS auditor somewhat bored with his lackluster life, comes to realize he is actually a rather lackluster fictional character in a novel being written by an author other than himself (played also brilliantly by Emma Thompson). Harold consults an English Literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) to better understand his predicament, and the professor asks him to take notes on his life experiences to determine whether indeed the story he is a character within is a tragedy or a comedy. I will not spoil the rather satisfying ‘better ending’ in this tale, but I highly recommend the film. Suffice to say in the end Harold’s character in the author’s story takes a transformational turn once Harold becomes actively engaged in figuring out who he is in this story, hence making it his own story after all.