Just an aside... The book I have been reading and have of course been captivated by is Yalom's 'Staring at the Sun', which is a book about facing the dread of death. But ironically his writing is so much about life and the living that the fact that it is fundamentally about death is something I keep having to remind myself of when I end up posing certain questions to myself. I suppose there is a message in there somewhere...
I also came across a wonderful writer named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has done a very powerful and articulate TED talk on the 'dangers of the single story' which similarly captured my attention for the full 18 minutes she speaks. Here are a few of her words:
'It is impossible to engage fully with one place or one person without engaging with all of the stories of that place or that person... Stories can be used to empower and to humanise.'
She speaks about the stories that we tell and the stories that we live by, and subsequently the stories we hear about others who may not come from the same place as we do. She speaks about power and equality and that despite the one thing that brings us together, despite the fact that we are each human and have capacity to love and hurt and to feel all emotion inbetween, there are still things that make us different too. That is the fabric of life, but the moment we begin to assume we know another based on the one single story we know of them, is the moment we disconnect. I have not only been reminded of how this fits with my work and my jobs, but also for myself. My assumptions about different cultures and how I may or may not inadvertently create barriers between 'them' and 'me', and the paradox of trying not to build a barrier and creating one through the very act of trying not to. You can probably tell I could rant about this for days on end. My point is, and I think Chimamanda's point is, that stories, although they can set us apart, they can also build something, build a person, and they can connect us too.
One of my students said something last week that has stayed with me, and I think it fits quite well here; he suggested that we make a spectacle out of things or that we might judge them because it would be uncomfortable to accept them as the 'norm'. We see a transgender story hit the media and there is a big social media frenzy about what this means, but is it just that we are really uncomfortable with the concept that there are human beings out there who exist that are different to us? If we begin to accept our differences, I think we may be a little more accepting of ourselves too. Perhaps the two go hand in hand... But as the talk reminded me, it is important not to turn a blind eye to the stories that we don't want to hear, and it is important to make sure that we try to hear as many as we can . There is a marked difference between the love of power and the power of love, as I probably keep writing in one form or another, and it is important to keep reminding ourselves of what that means. It can make a real difference.