We Are All Storytellers

In the Wake of the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary

campfire of confusion

Image by circulating (Iris Shreve Garrott) on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When I heard about the shooting in Newton, Connecticut, my heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe.  Although I am thousands of miles away and I learned hours after the incident, the world stopped spinning.

The last time I felt like that was 9/11.

I’m guessing most of you felt the same way. Something so mind-bogglingly horrible touches us all and we grieve as one.

Grief is a strange thing. Some react with numbness or a sense of terrible heaviness. Some with tears. Others with denial. And still others with anger and blame.

If we’re honest with ourselves, maybe we all react with anger and blame.

Listening to all the rhetoric and watching all the finger-pointing that sprang up immediately after the news broke, all of which has only intensified since, we might find ourselves disgusted and angry at all the finger pointers. Now is not the time, we say. We point the finger at them for using such a horrible tragedy as a political stepping stone.

We might be right.

We probably are right.

Thing is, those tendencies are built into our very core as human beings and they are only the flip side of some of our greatest drives. Our thirst for justice. Our instinct to protect the defenseless. Though we sometimes act on the dark side of these drives, seeking vengeance and scapegoats jumping to horribly wrong conclusions, we also sacrifice for each other, reach out to one another and fight for freedom and human rights.

We may not all do the right thing all the time but the ability is in us all.

Beside the desire to set wrong to right, we also crave meaning and order. If something seems senseless, we cannot let it be. We must fill the gaps in our understanding, making guesses and inferences if we must, because we are storytellers, all of us.

Whether we make a living spinning tales or hope to someday, we humans make sense of our world through the stories we tell about it. In our thoughts and our conversations. In our news reports, tweets and blogs. In how we will look back on these things over time and how we will pass it on to our children.

This is why we must blame someone or something. Every story needs a villain. And, if one dragon is already slain or out of our reach, we must have another.

This is also why we have to understand why something like this happens, how someone can do something so horrible. Everything in a story is part of a grander design. Nothing happens by accident or coincidence, unless those too are part of the design.

And these stories we tell ourselves are not merely self-indulgent (although they can be), they are how we shape who we are as people and how we shape our futures. If we allow it, a great story inspires us to change both the world and ourselves.

So maybe this dark story that we are now all a part of can inspire us to make ourselves and the world a better place. Maybe we can seek to pay more attention to each other, especially those of us that are lost or in pain. Maybe we can reach out more often, give more of ourselves. Maybe we can look for real, lasting solutions instead of giving into knee-jerk reactions. Most of all, maybe we can just love one another more.

How has the tragedy in Connecticut changed your world? What do you think we need to do to make this world a better place, in light of the shooting?

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Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “We Are All Storytellers

  1. Great post. A thing about tragedies like this is that they cut through all the fluff and crap of life, down to what matters most to us. They bring out the good in people. Hopefully, we can be the heroes in our own story and not fall back into complacency when the shock and grief begin to fade. I think bad times can make us better people, but we have to be active.

  2. I really hope this helps, as a slap in the face almost. We need to be nicer to one another, straight-up, and I would love to believe this awful incident will cause some to see it, but I’m skeptical. All I see is the media making a huge spectacle out of it and people mumbling about how bad it is and then going back to their day to day.

    David’s right, we have to be active about changing it, I’m just not sure that’s going to happen. I’d like it to happen, though.

  3. @David: Agreed. We have to keep these lessons always in mind. They cost too much to learn again.

    @Elisa: Unfortunately, we often tend to stand and be lookie-loos instead of take action on what we’ve learned. While we can hope everyone’s inspired to change for the better by this, we can only be sure we are.changed for the better.

  4. A wonderful piece written from a soundly intelligent stance.

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