Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quest of Personal Mythology

We may know "To thine own self be true" from Shakespeare's Hamlet, though this exhortation implies that we have some sort of understanding of ourselves. If there is any question to who we are, we could listen to Schank and "tell stories to describe ourselves not only so others can understand who we are but also so we can understand ourselves" (p. 44).

A month ago I shared personal stories for an hour in connection with the Lunch Bunch concert series of downtown Salt Lake City. Within the performance, I could not resist to also tell the Russian folktale "Bearhead". Since this tale was told towards the end of the program, I figured the audience had a better idea of my nature and might guess why "Bearhead" struck me. I didn't want to say any statement of "Bearhead reflects my life because. . ." though I did give them a challenge to see if they understood why I told it along with the personal tales. I then left it open for the audience to interpret the folktale as they wished.

The types of stories that we share already reveal who we are inside.

As my repertoire grows, I am anxious to see the development of my own personal mythology that parallels mythology found in other cultures. Schank reminded, "Telling our stories allows us to compile our personal mythology, and the collection of stories we have compiled is to some extent who we are, what we have to say about the world, and tells the world the state of our mental health" (p. 44).

I chuckled when I read "state of our mental health". I seem to come up with crazy or out-of-the-box ideas and so I have nicknamed myself "Random Rachel" in a good natured sort of way. This could easily connect to the nickname that my mom continues to call me of "Silly Goose". Within a name--or a nickname--could be steps on the path that my personal mythology travels upon.

Part of the mythology journey may entail the times when I listen to others tell stories about me. I might dwell upon the stories to such a degree that there could be self-fulfillment of those stories in positive or negative ways. Schank taught, "We also acquire personal myths from our parents, teachers, friends, enemies--in short, from anyone who tells us stories about ourselves" (p. 46).

If too much time is spent listening to "enemies"--or at least from negative sources--then I may turn to a trusted friend and ask for a story that may comfort me. Often the biggest "enemy" is me. When I transform into villain, then Casey, my husband, reminds me that I magnify my faults and that I dwell upon criticism longer than I should. He usually follows these words with some sort of example of why I should be happy with myself. Schank noted, "When you tell a story that implies something is wrong with yourself, you may hope for a story that disputes your point" (p. 52). Fortunately, Casey is always there to "dispute" on my behalf.

Thus, my personal mythology journey continues. I, too, face the question in Hamlet of "To be or not to be". Will I be my own villain within my mythology or will I play the hero's role? Each story I tell could change the answer to that question.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
(801) 870-5799

1 comment:

Barnabus said...

Personal mythology seems connected to Longfellow's: 'The Arrow and the Song'. I can't recall the exact words, but I recall that Longfellow expressed it: "I breathed a song into the air...And long ago from beginning to end. I found it in the heart of a friend." His metaphor was 'the shooting of an arrow into the air, that fell to earth he knew not where. Later he found it unbroke in an oak' I suppose that each story we tell is like shooting an arrow into the air.