Story Reveals What Cannot be Taught
How Story Reveals Hidden and Poetic Lessons that Heal the World
The power of story was first capitalized on as cave drawings and gradually shifted to the intrinsically human oral tradition we all know.
Stories are narratives that give us visuals showing where others have gone. They help us feel less alone while relating and connecting around understanding how to live a human life.
We make sense of the world by telling and listening to stories.
But the best stories have the best characters. They are mavericks open to the journey in a civilized way, not in the way of spite or revenge.
How I found the healing power of story
Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, just when I was thinking about college, career, and my first job, the steel industry collapsed.
Twenty-five miles of J&L steel mills closed and, entire towns withered.
The county where I lived had an unemployment rate higher than the peak during the Great Depression!
Traffic slowed to such a trickle; red lights were replaced with stop signs.
My friends took jobs at fast-food restaurants, delivering pizza and auto parts. In our teens and baffled, we couldn’t grasp the effect of an industry collapse.
When my father died suddenly, I descended.
One of nine children, I was lost in a shapeless fog of grief and bewilderment.
But I worked — on cars by day and school at night.
An illuminating lecture
My literature professor was a serious intellectual. An expert on the classics, “Dr. K” brought his high standards to the nondescript community college.
But students, shocked by his ‘overboard,’ grueling assignments, moaned.
Frustrated, Dr. K pounced at the opportunity to lecture not on literature but life.
He stared out at 27 beginners who were ‘lost in the wilderness,’ crossed his arms, and spoke with a deliberate left to right gait.
“It’s short-sighted and naïve to complain about doing the work that will ultimately help you. It connotes laziness.
Challenging assignments, the slow economy, the unemployment rate are life struggles that are like the tide. They will always be there in one way or another, either high or low, coming or going.
There is one sure-fire way to change your circumstances, and that is to change yourself.
If you expect something different to appear from the same effort magically, well, that’s what Einstein called insanity.
Embrace the difficulties of life as lessons. Use each day to rebuild, grow, and improve.
Recognize that to get what you’ve never had, you must do something that you never did.
You are here in this class to create a turnaround for yourself. This is your opportunity to seize a new direction rather than passively bounce with the tides of life.
Consider, are you here to change, or are you going to be college-educated but still complaining about the economy, blaming the government, whining about what’s missing, what you could have been?
Take a hard look in the mirror.
Discard the past and make course corrections going forward. Accept the responsibility to improve yourself.
If you think the problem is ‘out there,’ that thinking is the problem.
Begin right now to change yourself, and I guarantee you will change your future. Your income will change, and your life will change.
Don’t resent a difficult assignment, but rather invite the challenge. Appeal to the opportunity at hand. Don’t wish life was easier; make yourself stronger!”
As Eleanor Roosevelt observed through her experience during the Great Depression, it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
A brighter outlook
That lecture became my flashlight in the fog.
· As a result, I became singularly focused, one-pointed to foundational growth from the inside out, transformation, not training.
· I stopped looking at my shoes, pushed my shoulders back, and made a commitment to face life’s challenges head-on.
· I found what was essential. The most valuable assets, what would carry one the farthest — even from a university education is a love of knowledge and a thirst for learning.
My experience shows the classic story framework of the hero’s journey.
We go on an adventure from the everyday, face chaos and challenges, and feel like we are in bottomless darkness.
But we are facing ourselves — our fears, weaknesses, and perceived limitations. Through our struggles, the truth reveals itself.
We become stronger, triumphant, and then come home transformed.
The pattern is the same for all of us, famous and not so famous. Trials, the abysmal struggle, subsequent lessons and understanding, the eventual triumph, that’s what makes a heroic journey.
You are the maverick
The most important takeaway is that your story is just as compelling as those of Moses, Aristotle, and Luke Skywalker.
Heroic journeys happen every day. It happened to you at birth when you crossed the threshold to breathe on your own. When you got your first job, went to college, and became independent.
See the enduring patterns of the hero’s journey in your story.
The advice you always hear to know yourself, journal, and codify your thoughts through writing tells you to figure out and articulate the healing power of your story because it is crucial to a powerful life in three ways:
1. Finding your center — the source of repose and strength that is known, held and adhered to when difficulties arise.
2. Discover what excites you and integrate it into your personal journey.
3. When you see that you’ve returned home transformed, you discover your authenticity, the truth that was always there. That’s your inner teacher, the absolute guru. You don’t just know it. You discovered the liberating truth through your own experience.
“We only have to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find abomination, we shall find a god. And where we thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with the world.” — Joseph Campbell
Stories are a handbook for life. They inform, guide, and inspire in the art of living a powerful life under any circumstance.
The power of story reveals what cannot be taught, authenticity, and the depths within you.
When you share your story, you help others to see their strength and what is transcendent.
The journey to heal the world is in reality, a journey to heal ourselves, and in doing so, we heal the world.
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