My Life in Stories: Intro to the 'Story of Stories' Conversation

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This is the first in a series of posts that aim to tell the Story of Story…the why and how of building a website of stories. 
There’s been a lot of focus on stories as of late. Ads or pitches, for example, must tell a story…or so the story goes. 
That’s not what OutInUnder is about. 
I’m totally uninterested in the story Pepsi tells you.
I am interested in the stories that your grandmother told you. I’m interested in the stories you choose to tell to friends and family because, without understanding exactly why, they feel important.
In other sites this ‘Story of Story’ content would be in a site blog that takes you behind the scenes to make feature announcements and explain where things are headed. Here it’s just one story path among many. Feel free to jump in!
So then, here’s where it got started for me. Six times a year the families of the 8 children of my great-grandparents got together. I remember the first time it occurred to me that the tales being told by the ‘old’ folks after mid-afternoon dinner could occasionally be more interesting than chasing others kids up and down the stairs. I was around 7. By the time I was 9 or 10, I was a convert, staying with the stories rather than dipping in and out during play.
During late adolescence, the path of stories became a more serious business. 
A little background: I grew up in idyllic small town America. It actually was that semi-mythic land of the 50’s sitcom. It was religious, industrious and patriotic…a land of Boy Scout values; we strove to be obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
The 60’s kicked me out of the garden. The 60s dropped like bomb. Images of America came pouring in and revealed all the stories I’d been told as suspect and deeply untrustworthy, if not deliberate lies. Even my much loved grandmother had been feeding me a mash of treacherous platitudes all this time. Beneath the veneer lived a racist blood-stained empire. And I was complicit.
This was not merely a matter of me having to adjust a few misperceptions. If you remove enough props from a building the whole structure collapses and so it did. My little house of happy 50s sitcom America vanished leaving me in a strange and desolate terrain. (Oddly, strange and desolate terrain out in nature was one of the few things that gave solace.) 
All assumptions, values, and hence reasons to act, were now suspect. I became angry and destructive.
Deepening my outsider status was the aftermath of a ruptured appendix. A protracted recovery had me starting high school underdeveloped and weighing 75 lbs.  (I graduated from college rail thin at 128.) Girls bloomed and bobbed above me like giant inflatables at the Macy’s Parade. My high school peers were Scandahoovian boys with wrists the size of my neck.  
It took me more than a decade to reorient and reground. I used tools ranging from the trite to the extreme.
Nietzsche was attractive. In his view values are posited as an act of will in the face of an uncaring and cruel universe. He advocates doing philosophy with a hammer (gottendammerung) first pinging the idols to test for substance and then smashing the false. Damn straight.
I signed up for a psychology major, but it was mostly behaviorism, so I took courses in Freud in the philosophy department and learned Jung from religion professors. I'd stay up all night walking and thinking..struggling with my angels and demons, as it were.
My college transcript was the map of a battleground.
Ultimately, Jung and, later, Joseph Campbell proved the most useful. I came to believe we not only look to stories for guidance but that we assemble ourselves as a story…not only in introspective soul-searching but in collaboration and dialog with others and the environment and against a background of the prevailing stories of family, culture, and milieu.
Often we can flow along with one of the prevailing narratives and accept a story off the rack. I was blessed and cursed by having that fail dramatically. It was a pisser at the time but I gained significant benefit from having to junk my stories about who I was, who we all are, and what I was aiming to be and do, and just start over. The opportunity to slowly and painstakingly build a new path gave me something solid that simply going with the flow never could. And the path assembled itself as a narrative, a story among stories...that fact in itself remains fascinating. 
So, stories. Stories are how we build ourselves. Stories define our culture and provide the touchstones of our identity. Stories are how we deepen relationships and pass time over dinner, in bars, or around campfires. Stories are how we knit the world together after the old woman's dog unravels it at night. If there’s anything approaching wisdom, it’s communicated via stories. 
My objective here is to create a home for stories to get shared...shared following our noses or the lead of our compatriots. Stories that feel important or poignantly funny or nag at the back of our mind or float back into memory with warmth and feeling. Stories that simply want to be told. And so we tell them!
To accomplish the task all I start with is intent and a few ideas on how to assemble this on the web. It’s not at all a given that it’s doable! But, hey, slow and painstaking assembly in the face of iffy conditions…that’s what I do. So, all the better.
I’m starting where I know with a public group for Outdoor Industry stories and a private group for family stories. I’ve been lucky to be in a business salted freely with raconteurs....with folks that have been telling stories on each other for decades and, better yet, that have been generating stories worth telling about their adventures in business and in this marvelous world we all share!
My friends, I’m quite happy you're sharing the journey. Thank you for all the support,
As a PS, I’d like to give a shout out to my favorite story sessions of the past: long distance drives particularly with my brother Tim. If I can get anywhere close to that here, I’ve succeeded.

The narrative continues in My Life in Stories: Lessons Learned Part 1

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AlanTabor AlanTabor's picture

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Gail (not verified)
Wow, nicely done.  Your story of the importance of stories makes me want to read more about you ...  and more about other people's stories of how they discovered the importance of story. 

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