Principles of Frugality and Ethics

The Real Life Magic of Story

  • February 27, 2019
  • 3 min read
The Real Life Magic of Story

We underestimate the power of story. Stories tend to be seen as false tales, or cheap light entertainment, rather than valid or real. I think stories can be healing, connecting and life-changing. They can shape our behaviour without us even realising. ‘Story’ includes both written or oral narratives like fairy tales, myths or fiction, and also what we tell ourselves in our head. Reframing our own thoughts as ‘story’ allows us to be deeply immersed while at the same time softening our attachment to them. ‘My story is…’

What does story do? It locates us. Anchors us. Puts the moment in perspective. Extrapolates what could come next. Tunes us in. Primes us for symbolism, to notice, to act. Makes sense of our lives. Makes the unfamiliar familiar. Gives us a role. Humans are hard-wired to seek meaning from story.

This is helpful when the wider story is power-with, empowering, calling us to move forward. Our internal story doesn’t always match the wider social narrative. If we can’t find ourselves in the story, we feel outcast and isolated. We tell ourselves (the story) that we are different, that we don’t have a place.

Tree made of jewels hanging in my car, telling a story

Maybe we’re just listening to the wrong story.

We don’t need everyone to be in the same generic story, but we do need common ground with someone in order to feel like we belong. I imagine it like a bunch of overlapping circles. Recognising yourself and a greater life purpose in stories helps to build your identity when you’re feeling lost.

boy standing on a rock looking over the ocean with his arms held up in the air in triumph

Share your story with others. How did you get where you are today? How did you overcome hardships? It’s inspiring and validating to hear someone tell their journey. And seek out stories that make sense to you, that locate you and give you that common ground, whether it’s mythical beasts or autobiography of permaculture pioneers.

This blog is part the telling of my story, how I put my life into context. I also write short stories, poetry, articles, letters and diaries. Sometimes I tell stories out loud, although not often because my words flow better onto a page at my own pace rather than under pressure to a live audience (usually my nine year old!).

I read both fiction and non-fiction stories, often from Australian authors like Kim Scott, Jackie French, Tim Winton and Robert Drewe. Some inspiring permaculture stories are the Aussie Street scenario (from RetroSuburbia by David Holgrem) and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein. Deep stories for men can be found at Reclaim Your Inner Throne and deep stories for women in the book Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

I haven’t written a blog post for three months, because I’ve been putting a lot of my energy into my immediate social networks. I’m living social permaculture. I’ve held space, supported several friends through the legal system, co-regulated my child, hosted lots of travelers, fed people, shared permaculture and NVC informally. And then done it all again. This is valuable work.

And now I’m taking a quiet moment to write it into my story.

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  • Stories are so important. They are illuminating and we need them to make sense of our lives.

  • It’s good to hear from you, Rachel. Keep up the excellent work, play and storytelling!

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