Telling Stories: Narratives Are Us!
Dr. Cynthia Mathieson holds up a copy of the September 7, 2007, Globe and Mail. Dated She has clipped a story about Kristen Worley, the transgendered Canadian cyclist who hoped to make Olympic history in 2008.
Mathieson is giving a talk she calls, “Telling Stories: Narratives Are Us!” for the UBC (University of British Columbia) Okanagan Deans’ Lecture Series. She is Acting Dean of the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences at the Kelowna campus of the University of British Columbia.
“The culture would not have been available to hear the story in our grandparents’ time,” Mathieson says. Sometimes a story tears at the roots of stereotypes, as did this one of an athlete who saw herself as a woman born to the wrong gender. “A story may force change in the way people think.”
It’s this kind of examination of the way stories work on us, and the way we work on them, that is the focus of Story Route. As Mathieson speaks, my mind buzzes. She talks about our drive “to make sense of the big story” when something as catastrophic as the air crash in Nova Scotia or the events of 9/11 trigger a profound cultural re-examination.
But it is personal narratives that are the focus of Mathieson’s work. Her enthusiasm spills over as she talks about the way we tell our most important stories, looking back and giving meaning to our lives.
The disruption that comes with crisis always leads to a new search for meaning. Our carefully crafted story no longer encompasses the new identity brought on by divorce, job loss or death of a loved one. So we edit again because our stories are “open ended, recursive” and the meaning we give to them changes.
She says, “self-journaling may be more important now, in turbulent times.” The full talk has been posted on the UBC Okanagan Web site. It’s worth downloading and listening to.
NB: A good read for anyone wanting to know more about why personal narratives are so important to us is Christina Baldwin’s Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story.