The downside to stories
Sometimes I cringe when I hear someone tell a story about me.
I thought of this when I came across this bit of dialogue in the novel 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (a book I highly recommend, by the way, if you have any interest at all in philosophy and/or religion).
The main character, Cass, is a psychologist of religion and an atheist. He wakes up one morning to find an essay in the New York Times in which his former mentor excoriates him.
His friend Roz calls him to discuss the essay and this is part of their conversation:
CASS: I wish I didn’t have any part in his current story. I don’t want to be in his story.
ROZ: That’s the thing about people. They’re free to use you in their stories as they see fit, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
CASS: Most of the time we don’t even know how we’re being used.
ROZ: Better that way.
Sometimes I don’t want to be in a person’s story either. Especially if the story contains inaccuracies or too much hyperbole or is an old story in which I say or do things I wouldn’t today.
I feel sort of fossilized when that happens.
It’s a control thing, I guess.
A wise priest recently told me that when I feel the urge to say things like “that’s not what I meant to say” or “that’s not exactly what happened” or have the urge to smooth over a recent conflict, I should let it slide. To do otherwise is to try to control the image they have of me, he said. And that’s not the best use of energy.
I agree. But still. That doesn’t mean I have to enjoy hearing oft-told stories like the one when I was 12-years-old and lost my temper on the golf course and smashed my driver repeatedly into the ground, does it?
Filed under: Stories/Storytelling
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