The power of story

Last week’s focus, in the Reconciliation through Education MOOC (massive open online course) currently on offer by UBC, was Learning from Story.

In one video, Dr Jo-ann Archibald explains, “We lived a storied life. We had stories in our everyday living.”

As a fan of story, I expected to just nod my head through this section of the course. Yes, yes, story. Of course. I love story. I try to craft my work, my entire approach to work, as story. I see how my kid craves it… how he’ll prompt me, or my husband: “tell me a story about when you were a kid.” How he’ll happily hear the same story over and over: “tell me a scary tractor story.” How he wants to be audience and director at the same time: “tell me a story, but not one with monsters, and not one where I have to go to space.” And in the dark, I’ll lie beside him and riff and hope that the next sentence will present itself as I talk, and I’ll feel, in the stillness of his body, or the squirm of his body, his rapt attention, or his absolute investment in the tale, and his anticipation that the scary part is coming…

But it intrigued me to realize that people can approach story from such different angles… and that our world-views might be quite radically different.

In this video, Dr Archibald alludes to the importance of story, and how a traditional indigenous education meant learning to be fluent in story, to engage in it, to navigate through it. It’s very interactive. A story is not something to consume, to just receive passively. I love this profound insight and approach, it feels like something fundamental, such an important thing to learn in life – how to be a participant and co-creator of the story you find yourself listening to, of the story you find yourself living.

In the dark, as I lay beside a warm sleeping story-filled boy’s body, I thought about this, and how it is possible to reconcile two different world-views, how rich a relationship can be, when it has space for both. My husband and I are so different – we navigate having a different outlook on things pretty much all the time – and it can be frustrating, but ultimately, it’s so enriching.

To come to a deeper understanding that my community is full of people with different world views – who might value similar things as me – story, family, having a healthy kid, nature – but from a different away of thinking, is just an invitation to engage more deeply in this place, and with each other, and with open-ended stories.


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