Why I Am Going to India
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Why I am going to India.

Mary Gilbert, 2/23/03

Because stories are the way to reach people.  Even dry facts from books become interesting when inserted into a story that is deepened, strengthened, and illuminated by them.  If the story is compelling and intriguing, working with those otherwise dry facts becomes a juicy thing to do.

There is a lot of evidence that the human mind is set up to think in story format.  We quite naturally construct a mental narrative in order to understand what’s happening. I would say further that we find personal meaning through seeing our individual story in the contexts of both the larger story of our times, and what I call a Great Story, a Story that tells us What It’s All About.

Now you do have to be careful with a Great Story, a meaning-giving story, because the human mind has certain tendencies.  I’m thinking here of the tendency to find opposites, like good and evil, and then get all angry and judgmental.  When these emotions guide our actions it may feel right at the time but it may also get us someplace we didn’t really want to go.  In a Great Story there is often a battle between “good” and “evil,” and although we know, to some degree, that each of us has a mix of these elements, we tend to align ourselves with the “good” and want to get free of the “evil.”  One common way we do this is to vilify some other(s) and try to vanquish them. This lets us fight wars and kill people without seeing that their humanity is quite the same as ours. (We can, of course, identify with the “evil” and either revel in it or hate ourselves,  but that’s another story.)  It’s important that we are aware of this danger as we fashion our narratives.

As a girl I found inspiration in tales about slaves escaping southern bondage and reaching northern freedom.  It’s easy to see the good /evil theme in such tales, and you can bet I yearned for a chance to prove myself a brave child, ready to do some modern equivalent of helping those escapees in every way I could.  I wanted to wake up into a story bigger than my own and do the right thing. 

It does happen in real life that you wake up to a bigger story going on around you, and you have to figure out your role in it. You have to weave the narrative you tell yourself about your own life, the bigger story that you are part of, and the Great Story in which you find meaning, into one coherent whole you can live with.  I am sure the Underground Railway won many recruits among people seeing their lives in the double context of the events of their times and a Great Story that guided them in what to do.

Now I want to tell stories that will have great power of instruction, because I want to have an impact on the times we live in.  I want to be part of creating real change.  I want to be able to present, and enhance with facts, true stories strong enough to woo people away from living within stories that are destructive to the health of mind and body, to spiritual wholeness and to the “beloved community” in which I count not only all people but all living things and the physical world of which we are an inseparable part. 

Just at this time I have waked up into a story about our relation to each other and to the Earth.  (I write it that way because that’s the available language, not because We are Us and Earth is an It with which we relate.)  Way has opened for me to take a class in the company of some great tellers of this story.  I know this will move me toward my goal of figuring out  how I will do my own telling.



The love of liberty is the love of others. The love of power is the love of ourselves. -- William Hazlitt
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( This page was last updated on:  05/30/2003 )