Friday Findings

Some items of interest that have come across my monitor in the last week:

The Puzzle Pieces of My Life: More on Narrative Therapy

We can always re-member what we need to in order to give our lives meaning. A bad day can turn into a learning experience or a laughing matter within just a few days. A car accident can be a wake-up call or a chance to get your dream car. Any way you look at an event, it can tell a different story. As for the events in our stories, we are the authors. We are in control of placing our pieces of our puzzles in the right places. The places that make the most sense for right now.

This is why I love hearing people’s stories: I can hear them placing, arranging, and making sense of all of the different pieces in their life. This is why I will always ask to hear how someone got to where they are, or how they met their partner, or spent their week, month, life. People deserve to be given the chance to place their pieces over and over until it gives them the most meaning—and I intend to give people that chance.

Conservatives and the Zombie Apocalypse

Economics professor Nancy Folbre sees the current election climate in the U.S. as a competition between two narratives:

  • “The basic right-wing story line evokes zombie apocalypse: The shambling, diseased living dead — Obama Zombies — are threatening human civilization”
  • “the left-wing narrative of vampire threat, which warns of a small group of powerful, almost immortal beings who invest in blood funds, suck out the profits and stash them in Transylvanian tax shelters”

These two narratives are competing to become the dominant national narrative that will define the country, at least for the next few years. “Both narratives reflect the enormous economic anxiety Americans feel in the aftermath of a financial crisis and ensuing recession. Zombies and vampires represent archetypal middle-class fears: the fear of being pulled down by the needy or stomped on by the powerful.”

The next entry also discusses how individual narratives develop into national narratives.

Opposing narratives of success in politics

English professor Stephanie Li contrasts the individual narratives of the two U. S. presidential candidates offered at their respective national conventions. “Our current President’s [Obama’s] self-conscious coming of age story challenges the image of rugged individualism long associated with presidential biographies,” she writes of the portrait of Obama presented by Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama. In contrast, Li says of Ann Romney’s speech, “even when emphasizing her husband’s support of and outreach to others, Ms. Romney presents him as a kindly benefactor, not as someone who ever relied upon the help of others.”

Li’s conclusion:

In his staid speech at the DNC, he [Obama] employed the second person pronoun as much as the first. Every victory he identified from the last four years was followed by a rousing, “you were the change… you did that… you made that possible… you did that.” For Obama, there is little separation between his success and the people who made his success possible. His life narrative embraces collectivity while Romney adheres to the tired conventions of rugged individualism. Increasingly the choice between the presidential candidates is one between productive cooperation and stark self-reliance.

Related Post:

“What’s on your syllabus?”

Nieman Storyboard is a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. This post presents professors from several universities discussing what texts they use in courses about narrative.

This isn’t just a list of materials. Instructors (well, with one exception) explain why they use each particular source. The result is a fascinating and wide-ranging look at various approaches to the study of narrative practices.

Rabbi Marc: Write your own song, not for whole world to sing, but for you to live out

Rabbi Marc Aaron Kline:

Herein is the crux of Torah’s final command, as I see it. The text is not really telling us to copy the Torah; it is telling us to be intentional about writing our own song and our own book. We are supposed to be intentional about telling our story and living our lives in such a way that anyone who might chance through our pages will take away something of value for having engaged us. In doing so, we have to spend a great deal of time and energy in introspection, in prayer, in reflection … in the work of self awareness. This sounds easy, but too many of us do not have the time, energy, or patience to do this work, and we spend our lives trying to mimic someone else’s song.



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