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September 25, 2007

The Luminous Power of Storytelling

Rereading this week's Hackie column got me thinking about the stories we tell one another, and how that process binds us in our common humanity.

In "The Back Story," I find out that a regular customer - Chase, a man that I've much appreciated and admired - spent the better portion of his twenties as a marijuana dealer, and not a nickel-and-dimer at that. As a result of his sharing this intense piece of personal history, I feel as if I understand him so much better. And, I would bet, Chase feels that as well.

Susan Cheever, the daughter of the brilliant author, John Cheever, wrote a memoir about her father. During an NPR interview with Terry Gross, Susan said this about the functioning principle of Alcoholic's Anonymous:  Connecting with another is the highest level of human spirituality, and we connect through our stories.

This statement moved me immensely. On one level, I've always suspected that we're all in AA, whether we acknowledge it or not. By this I mean that we're all beholden, to various degrees, to our lower natures. Perhaps our life's journey is defined by the struggle to rise above, to hear, what somebody has called, "our higher angels."

Storytelling for me works on just these levels. I'm moved and honored by the stories shared with me (both in and out of the taxicab), and I'm moved in another way when I retell the stories in my writing, or speak them in heart-to-heart conversations with my kith and kin.

September 25, 2007 at 01:42 PM in Hackie Unplugged | Permalink


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Hi Jernigan,

I too am a believer in the statement that Susan Cheever made in her interview. As a non-theist (I am no where near militant enough about it to be an atheist), I do not really believe in a God, a Higher Power or anything that has either a physical, spiritual or other dominion over fate.

I believe in the connection between us that is most evident when we stop resisting our common ground and start relating to each other with compassion, understanding, humor and truth.

Being familiar with AA and other such groups, I also agree with you in that if we allow ourselves to expose those things that at times make us most ill at ease, we find not condemnation, but usually a sense of identification, strength and commonality.

I used to joke that what the world needs is something I called "All Of Us Anonymous". Maybe it's not really a joke...

Thanks for all of your columns over the years. You are definitely a bright spot on the horizon.


Posted by: Christopher | Sep 26, 2007 5:58:17 PM

Your reflection, Christopher, on "All of Us Anonymous," was way eloquent; I, certainly, could not have put it better.

Speaking for myself - and, really, who else can I speak for? - I do relate to a higher power, though the word one attaches to it seems to me supremely irrelevant. Someone once told me: there are 47 names for God, but only one God.

But, like you, I don't conceive of God as having dominion, as you put it, over our fate. Our fate is our fate, or, as the Hindus and Sikhs call it, our karma. Where the higher power comes into play, from my point of view, has more to do with guidance and inspiration as our life plays out, encouraging and helping us to do the right thing.

There's some heavy-osity, as my friend Don would call it! I certainly invite other commenters on this deep subject.

Anyway, and more to the point, thanks for your kind and encouraging words about my writing.

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Sep 26, 2007 7:54:51 PM

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