5/22/09

Wise Women Friday: Muriel Rekeyser

Words of wisdom from the American poet Muriel Rekeyser (1913-1980):

The universe is made of stories, not atoms.

What distinguishes our species is not that we have thumbs or that we make tools; it is that we tell stories.  Our brains turn data into narrative.  The stories change.  How we tell them changes.  But the universe is made of stories.  We are the stories we tell.  So choose your stories well.  

22 comments:

pasadenaadjacent said...

That school of thought that says "there are no mistakes".? I'm not a follower. I think our best stories are those we didn't choose. They may have been painful to experience but they're a solid hoot in the re-telling.

Margaret said...

PA: You are so right. I guess I was thinking more about the stories we tell about ourselves (are we failures, are we succesful, is life awful, are we grateful). But we definitely should try and experience lots of things, even if we fail. I fall on my face constantly and I guess I want to see that as a story of perseverance as opposed to one of bruises.

Bec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bec said...

Great thought for today. I teach public speaking and always remind my students that humans are drawn to personal narratives and storytelling is a universal way to reach an audience.

Desiree said...

SOME brains turn data into stories.
Others turn it into, well, bacon vodka. Proof enough that there actually are mistakes. ;)

Susan C said...

I love that quote.

I discovered fairly recently that my "stories" have three levels: things I would share on a blog, things I would share with an old friend after two Manhattans and things that I wrote in private and prayed that noone would ever find. Of course, the best stuff falls into the third category.

And PA is so right about stories we didn't choose.

Jean Spitzer said...

Susan C is so right; those last stories are the kind that it's often difficult to re-read, yourself, but they are the best. But I do think human make stories (and songs and drawings) to place themselves in the world and to make sense of the world.

Margaret said...

Bec: I teach my writing students the exact same thing.

Dez: Well, the brain often misinterprets that data.

Susan and Jean: You are both right about the types of stories we tell ourselves. And, Jean, I agree completely about music and art. Aren't music and art their own kinds of stories?

Cafe Observer said...

I'm not a follower of "there's no mistakes", or "nothing's bad or wrong", either, pA. How do I know? I eat out every day.

People certainly tell stories!! Y'all can say that again...and, again. So, true. And the stories they tell are often so, so,...well, only a human can think up such things.
Another distinguishing mark of de human species is we canines usually have to raise our voice (bark) to get your attention.

Petrea said...

I don't really have anything to add, I just want to click on the email follow-up box so I can listen in. I like what everyone is saying and I want to sit around this campfire.

Shell Sherree said...

I brought marshmallows. :)

altadenahiker said...

Oh, I understood Margaret right away. What is life, really, but a series of random accidents and chance if we don't tie it together with our own narrative?

Humans are hard-wired to find a pattern to everything.And if one doesn't exist, we create it.

Susan C said...

I just realized that I now have the perfect ending for a piece I've been working on called "I hate irrational numbers." Thanks!

Vanda said...

Since solid matter at its most basic level is made of energy, everything is fiction, isn't it?

pasadenaadjacent said...

Blame it on Sekhmet. She's caused me to be very argumentative

Margaret said...

AH: Next time I'll just defer to you. You said exactly what I wanted to say.

Vanda: I might also defer to you. That sounds very clever.

PA: Argumentative is good. Keep it up.

Vanda said...

You know there is also scientific theory that our world is a giant hollogram.

Laurie said...

What a great thought-provoking post and conversation. I'm with Susan -- my best stories are in the third category, too.

Paula L. Johnson said...

You are so smart and articulate.

I really hate that about you.

altadenahiker said...

You were dangling there at 19, so I thought I drop kick you over to 20. Besides, it's a great post.

Margaret said...

AH: Thanks for pushing me over the edge. Very kind of you.

J&D said...



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