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Storytelling: new significance for an old tale

As a young kidlet, I made up stories about myself for an audience that didn’t really exist.

No, I wasn’t schizophrenic.

But as a tortured introvert (seriously, I was beyond painfully shy), my inner audience was the only group of people I could fathom sharing anything with.

In journalism school (okay, journalism junior college followed by a year or two of journalism state university), we immediately learned that any person’s favorite subject is … him or her self.

We all want to share our story.

My brothers and I eagerly shared our dreams from the previous night with my parents each breakfast. When it started to become a competition for one of my brothers (ahem), our morning storytelling ritual was quickly ended. And we were so disappointed.

Human beings love stories. We love to hear them. We love to share them. What’s a movie or TV show other than a story? What’s the latest celebrity gossip, but a story?

We make sense of the world through stories.

We make sense of tragedy through stories.

I’ve listened to and read many stories since Friday’s earthquake in Japan. People sharing their personal experiences in the tragedies that have affected their lives. Friends calling, emailing, facebooking, twittering the latest stories (CNN footage, youtube videos, blog posts). I’ve shared my own stories.

Our ancestors made sense of their world via storytelling around the communal fire. We’re now making sense of our world via storytelling around our communal laptops and ipads and smartphones.

“Story” has become a sexy buzz word in the blogging world, as well as the handmade world. “Tell your story to connect with your reader/buyer.” It starts to feel disingenuous to me, though, when stories are forced or for an ulterior motive.

Our need for story is ancient, part of our core being. Sharing stories – authentic, true, deep, honest, painful, sweet, funny, tragic stories – helps us understand, cope, laugh, sigh, love, hate, grieve, heal.

I’m sharing my own experiences and stories with you here as I try to make sense of my own completely disrupted world in the wake of Japan’s multiple disasters. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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