stories are medicine




There are two kinds of power:

power to (influence, inspire)

and power over (intimidate, oppress, to rule through fear and bullying).

Creatives engage in the power of the first kind. This is a shortened version of a speech by Nina Simons which calls on us to use our power with fullness and wisdom. So I wanted to reprint it here (and I’ve taken it in turn from Gloria Feldt’s NO EXCUSES.

Of all the ways we might cultivate our leadership to address this intensely changing time we face, for me, increasing my awareness, will, and compassion seem the most essential.

How might a heightened awareness of all that currently threatens life inspire us to act more boldly, more purposefully, and more courageously to shift our collective course?

I believe the way through is by reclaiming the underworld parts of ourselves.

Emotions that have been banished, trained away, and anesthetized — the anger, loss, and grief we have no rituals for anymore are needed to heal our relations with ourselves, each other, and this endangered and sacred Earth.

Stories are medicine for our false isolation; a way to forge connection and community and help shift our course.

Stories are the seed form of culture we carry around within us. They define how expansively or tightly we offer the gift of our lives. We decide how far we can go, how large a stand we’re willing to make, or what risks we’re willing to take, based upon the stories we tell ourselves.

Sometimes they stem from our family and social conditioning, and we carry them unwittingly, unaware of how they shape our lives.

About ten years ago, I began unearthing my own hidden stories. I discovered that I thought of myself as “the woman behind the man” (and as you may have heard, “behind every great man is a woman, rolling her eyes.”)

It was shocking to realize how self-limiting my inner narrative was.

It required the reflection of a colleague, friend and mentor, a savvy man whose opinion I trusted to help me believe in a new story to replace it.

He told me that he saw my contribution as being of equal value…It took me a while to wrap my mind around this new narrative. Once I did, I understood that I held the keys to my own liberation.

We’re all indigenous to someplace, and have community embedded in our cellular and ancestral memory. In some deep corner of our hearts, don’t we all yearn for it?

But in a quest for certainty, seeking an illusion of “safety”, criticism and judgments reinforce our separateness.

The invisible stories embedded throughout our culture lead us to ruthlessly rank ourselves, and each other, hardening our hearts to empathic connection.

May the soil of our souls be sown with seeds that expand our capacity for compassion,

Watered with the grief that strengthens our commitment, and fired by the outrage that fortifies our will.

May our roots entwine underground like aspen trees or seven sisters oaks, whose underground networks of connection offer the resilience to weather hurricanes and storms.

May we leave with stories carried like seeds in our feathers, to sow them wherever, and with whomever, we next connect.

May we savor together some visceral taste of beloved community — so nourishing, so enlivening and desirable that our hearts and hands take it on, and the flaming light of our purposes will not be quenched.

Oct 22, 2010

2 comments · Add Yours

A lovely, empowering speech. I came to my love of reading and writing early because of this hunger for connection. I was shy, and I had trouble connecting with my peers, but boy did I connect with the characters in stories. As I got older and outgrew my social awkwardness, writing became a way to both understand myself better and share who I am with the world. Thanks for sharing!


Thank you for this excerpt. My cynical take on this is that there are two kinds of people in this world: the ones that long to connect by inspriation and influence and those too afraid of the give and take of real connection that they must control the world by force. For the latter, your failure to conform to their world view means you must forfeit your beliefs, your goals, whatever they choose to control–even your life. Therein lies the conflict in all stories.


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