How Stories open up our World

5 Mar

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than closed by belief .                             Gary Spence

I grew up in a city; away from the culture that my mum would have loved me to be a part of.

She regularly told me stories about my cousins back in our home town. All these stories were intended to familiarize me with the life back in our native place. ‘Learn the language – everyone speaks the local language’; No jeans …. there they wear long skirts…she said. Through her stories I had created a mental picture of my cousins and I wasn’t keen on meeting any of them. Finally, the day arrived when we went to our hometown. I was startled to see my cousin wave out to me and present me with a beautiful wrist band she made herself. ‘What …. she knows English and has heard of wristbands’ – I thought to myself; I realized I knew nothing about her other interests. I had only one picture of them in my mind- shy girls in long skirts. That wasn’t wrong …. but so incomplete. Over the few days that followed, all of us had a great time together, she spoke fluent English and was fun to hang out with.

My limited view of my cousin and the life she led was the reason I never looked forward to connecting with them until that eventful trip to my hometown.

Years passed by and I got married to a man who came from a very diverse background. Both our parents had misconceptions about each others families simply because they also had just one fixed story that they believed in. Their limiting perspectives took years to widen and what could have been a truly valuable relationship never really got cemented.

If we pause to think… How often do we carry with us just one story of a person or a place …… and this constricted view restricts the essence of our interaction?

How time after time we tend to restrain our unbridled enthusiasm based on the more negative stories or beliefs that we have?

How we trap ourselves within a world based on our limited stories?

What if we were to supplement our one story with many more stories – How different would our outlook towards that person or place be?

I remember trying to decide on a vacation spot for my family and realized how bound I was because of the lone record I carried within me about an otherwise interesting place. Eventually pushing my self, I took off to this place that in my mind was associated with illegal immigrants and petty crimes. It was such a happy feeling to see that the place was so much more – streets with vibrant happy people, musical concerts, art exhibits in parks et al. Nothing like what I imagined it to be. Clearly I had heard just one part of a beautiful melody

Why do we then remain within our limiting ideas? I guess its coz we all like a sense of definiteness which gives us peace of mind and keeps away stress or fear that comes with uncertainty.

But what if we were to Enrich our minds with more than one narrative of a place or person? How would that benefit us?

  • It would help understand that there are alternate ways to living well;
  • Our tolerance would increase and we wouldn’t make assumptions based on the little we know about the matter;
  • We would get rid of the stereotypes we create, that come in the way of seeing the world as it is; thus enjoying the richness that life has to offer.
  • In relationships, the moment we associate a person with more than one narrative, we are able to give successful interaction a chance and the relationship will have the potential to grow stronger.

The benefits of being open and curious, to increase the stories we carry with us, are far too many to be ignored.

The ability to zoom out our lens and capture the richness of the world around can be energizing and a beginning, where we train ourselves to see new options and possibilities.

All it takes is a deliberate pause and a reset of the mind to discover that life is so much bigger than what we ever thought it to be.



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