Mind and Body:
From René Descartes to William James

Writing Descartes:
I Am, and I Can Think, Therefore ...

Story Evolution

An interim reflection on Writing Descartes ...
4 August 2004

The "How" of Story-Sharing II

(excerpted in the on-line forum
see also "The "How" of Story-Sharing I")

Pleased, not surprised, that others too see/hear "Bottom line ... (for the moment)" as a starting place ("springboard"?) rather than a last word.

So, here's the springboard re the "how" of "story-sharing" as it was originally phrased:

We all need to learn to get better at "story-sharing", where that means (the how? part) ...
  • making one's stories (little or big) available to other people
  • telling one's stories in a way that has the greatest likelihood of their being useful to others in their own story evolution
  • listening to stories in a way that has the greatest likelihood of causing changes in ones own
  • valuing, even encouraging, stories to "rub against" one another, believing in the worth of their differences (in the unknown that can/will be created by lots of interacting "centers").
  • and a few thoughts on how I would change/amplify given Lucy, Sharon, Anne, and few other things, including Dialogue and Dissemination ...

    Re 1: There's a terribly important social dimension as well as an individual dimension to this. What I had in mind originally was that individuals need to learn to overcome their reluctance to make their stories available (out of fears that they weren't "big" enough, or "well-formed" enough, or "well-INformed enough"). And I still think that's important, but the sense I'm now getting is that there is an additional equally important consideration: people are more likely/inclined to tell their stories if they feel they will be "seen/heard" in particular ways, and less likely to do so if they don't feel that they will be seen/heard in those particular ways (or seen/heard at all?). To put it differently, the social space for effective story-sharing (created by the individuals in it) needs not only to provide assurance to individuals that their stories are welcome, but also assurance that their stories will be received by others in some particular ways (or at least not in some other particular ways).

    I'm not at all sure there is consensus (yet? ever? should be?) about what the "particular ways" are, but I think this is clearly important to further explore. So let me offer another "springboard". To start, I think the social context (to which everyone contributes) should be one that

    invites ALL stories that people are able/willing to tell, irrespective of race, creed, gender/sexual orientation, etc AND independent of how the story does/doesn't fit into past/present conversations in this context or elsewhere (ie stories are invited irrespective of background, academic or otherwise, age, social status, etc, and independent of story telling "style" (more on this below)). What's important about this is that it maximizes the diversity of stories "being rubbed against one another". This increases the likelihood both that individual story tellers will find something useful for the further development of their own story and the likelihood that they will contribute something useful to some one else's. It also increases the likelihood that any "common" stories that emerge will be genuinely "common" and so reflective of the kind of wisdom that evolves as one one gets closer to the "view from everywhere".

    Based on my personal experiences, here and elsewhere, I don't think it would be appropriate (or honest) for the social context to promise individual story tellers that their stories will be understood by all in exactly the spirit in which they were told (even insofar as that was understood by the story teller). In fact, I don't even think it would be appropriate (or honest) for the social context to promise that any given story will be read/seen by any given person, much less that it will produce in any given person any particular effect that the story teller would like to produce. Stories should, I think, be told/offered not because of a wish to bring about particular changes in particular other people but rather because the story teller believes in the story sharing process, both individually and collectively. A story is valuable for what it MIGHT contribute, now or in the future, to whomever it is useful, and for whatever part it proves to play in evolving collective stories. Morever, whatever its significance in the social context, a story is already valuable for the new understandings the process of creating the story produced in the teller.

    While I don't think the social context can/should promise stories told will have particular effects on particular people, I think some other kinds of assurances are appropriate, desirable, even necessary (given our experiences here to date). I do think it is appropriate for the social context to assure story-tellers that there is no hidden motive in the story sharing process, other than the "rubbing against" which is its fundamental dynamic. This amounts to saying that everybody involved agrees that not only their own stories but also any more immediate objectives they have in telling them are potentially alterable through hearing the stories of others. I think it is also appropriate/desireable for the social context to assure story-tellers that listeners not only exist but are interested in/sympathetic to stories, which is to say they would like to hear stories other than their own and so will make use of them as best they can. So perhaps the social context should be one that

    assures that all stories will be treated with respect, ie valued for whatever uses they might have now or in the future, rather than being potentially dismissed out of hand in the present because of particular characteristics they are perceived to have (or not have). Listeners will look for whatever is valuable in a story rather than trying to find ways to invalidate the story as a whole.

    Re 2: It seems to me we have (so far) even more diversity on this issue than on what kind of "listening" is reasonably expected. BUT, maybe we could pick up on the last point of (1)? There are lots of different ways to tell stories (lots of different story telling "styles"). Some are more "natural" to some story tellers, others to others, and some are more attractive to some listeners, others to others. Maybe this is a place where we all need to have some confidence that differences among us are the the grist on which effective rubbing works? While reading, we will keep looking, regardless of style, for the valuable, and presume that each of our writing styles will evolve as part of our individual and collective learning to be better story-sharers?

    Re 3: This one seems to me still more or less intact, though I'm more than happy to add to it "without needing resolution to differences in perspective". In fact, I think that's essential to cement the idea that story-sharing is NOT an effort to get to a place of "consensus"; its a process that is fueled by difference and is endlessly generative. Its essential as well to give everybody the space to "breathe better". There's no rush to closure, hence plenty of time to learn/share.

    Re 4 I THINK "allowing myself to be changed" is inherent in "valuing, even encouraging, stories to "rub against one another". What the latter does though additionally is to acknowledge that the process itself may not always be comfortable/pleasant. There WILL be gratings and "senses of injustices/hurt feelings". In fact, the more people we succeed in bringing into a process of story-sharing the more frequent the "gratings" will be. And this may be, in the long run, the greatest challenge to be faced (not only here but for democratic systems in general). Can we choose, by thinking, to remake ourselves so that we can, in one way or another, get beyond "senses of injustice/hurt feelings", learn from the past without becoming locked in by it, perhaps even come to accept the occasional hurt feeling as a sign that the process itself is vibrant and healthy?

    Will not (of course) expect this iteration of a springboard to last any longer than the last one. But am definitely learning some things, as I did/am from the 40th Street project in which Serendip is involved. Thanks to everyone whose helped me to think more about these things. I hope/trust this iteration will also find some interested listeners/story generators.

    Conversation continues in the on-line forum

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