Saturday, March 05, 2011


Let me start out this post by saying check out my cool hat.

I like this hat for a few reasons. Like a lot of the things which eventually take on great meaning it started with something simple and kind of shallow. There are websites which allow you to upload any image you're willing to say isn't copyrighted and put it on pretty much anything you might find a corporate logo on. Stickers, mugs, shirts, hats etc. I on one of these sights, basically window shopping, and I decided to put in "World of Darkness" as a search term. For those of you not familiar with it, World of Darkness (WoD) is setting for a number of pen and paper roleplaying games, sort of like Dungeons and Dragons. In this setting the person who is running the game is known as the Storyteller, and this is where I first saw a hat which had the word "Storyteller" written across the top of it.

So that's where this started. But the simple desire for another piece of nerd paraphernalia isn't really enough to sell me a hat. What eventually sold me on the hat was how much the word Storyteller came to mean to me.

I started a lot of bullshit ideas while I was a teenager, most of them broad ranging, dramatic, and poorly thought out, as befits the role of a teenager. One of them that made it through the purging fires of maturity has stuck with me. I want my life to be an interesting story. When I reflect on things I'm often struck by a kind of pleasure not from the memory of the actual act, but simply from the fact that that memory is a part of my story. This has lead me to do a few stupid things in my time, but the only things I really regret are the ones that were damaging, and weren't good stories.

I also love a good story. It's one of the few things in life where the word love is truly appropriate. My love of stories is why I'm a listener, a reader, and an explorer. It's why I tend to listen to more NPR then music. Lectures, Stand up comedy, audio-books and podcasts make up 75% of my "music" collection.

The thing I recently came to understand about all this is that lessons that I really learn I learn from stories. I have a theory, which I'm making up on the spot right now, about the things I've learned. They all fit into two basic categories. Tricks and Stories. Tricks consists of all the techniques, everything from physics to programming to art can be summarized as some trick I know. It may help you to think of trick in a circus or skateboarding context, where the meaning is essentially the same as technique. I know a trick that lets me make banana bread, I know a trick that lets me rapidly fold sheets, I know the trick to getting to places in downtown Olympia, I know the rather difficult trick that involves driving through downtown Seattle, and of course I know the trick to operating a car. When I showed a kid a top and told him about rotational momentum what I was really doing was showing him one of the physics tricks that I know, and that through the magic of the human experience, he now also knows.

So Tricks are everything I know how to do. It is, in essence, the Yang aspect of knowing. Stories are the facts and figures, they are the characters and events, they are all of the things underlying the tricks, and ultimately every trick I know is rooted in one story or another. The trick to banana bread comes from the story of living in the University District and constantly throwing out old bananas. One day it had gone too far and I made my first loaf. That was the first time I used that trick, and it's evolved since then. The story evolves with it, since it now includes the time I brought banana bread to a potluck and was later asked via e-mail what the sweetener in it was. I thought about it and couldn't think of anything in particular, so I replied back that I thought it was just from the actual bananas. Five minutes later, just after I had shut down my computer, I remembered that there's a quarter cup of brown sugar in it. My e-mail had included a link to the recipe so I figured they would realize my mistake. That story is still intrinsically wrapped up with the trick.

Stories are more then just the source of tricks though. Stories are the conduit through which we, particularly I, can gain wisdom, and the trick that you learn from wisdom, is life. And that's the trick I'm really trying to learn. The thing is that wisdom is hidden amongst every story. The tragedies, the triumphs, even the cliches have a little bit of wisdom.

And this brings us to the real point. I've spent a lot of time over the last six months thinking a lot about why I want to be a therapist. The thing I've realized is that what I'm really trying to do, or rather trying to learn to do, is heal people's stories. Being a Healer is an interesting idea, because it encompasses so many practices. The Surgeon is a healer, the personal trainer is a healer, the teacher is a healer, and I think the most important type of healer may be the friend. Everyone has something different they do to heal. Some of the most profound acts of healing I've performed were through storytelling. The only thing that stands as a peer is the act of listening. These stories, the ones I tell and the ones I hear, are important in ways that we may never truly understand. This is why I think of myself as, and simultaneously aspire to be, a Storyteller.


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