It is a chilly October morning and I’m sitting at the airport on Paros waiting for departure. I spend much time watching people and wondering what their story is. Because everyone has a story to tell and everyone is a story to be told.
Socrates was the first to acknowledge the importance of a personal narrative when he suggested that man learn to know himself. So how does one go about knowing themselves? And is it even possible?
From the minute we are born, our story is being written for us without our participation. Our condition of possibility is already determined by who our parents are, what their socio-economic status is, our place of birth, our health conditions, etc. It is only when we begin to understand what has made us who we are that we can begin to know ourselves. And that’s when the story telling begins.
So we tell stories to ourselves about ourselves and in doing so give ourselves an identity. And it is this identity that we’ve created that will influence our behaviour and explain why we act the way we do. It will also greatly influence our future.
Humans are by nature storytellers. Because stories help make sense of the world around us. They also help to form the beliefs we have about ourselves and others. But not everyone is a good storyteller.
Some storytellers stick to the facts and some do not. Some storytellers are kinder to themselves than others. Some storytellers simply do not know how to express themselves. And some storytellers let others tell their stories for them.
The only thing constant in life is change. And as we change, so does our story. And for some months now, I have felt the change within me. Therefore, my personal narrative needs to be updated, edited, and retold.
The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules
The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg is “an incredibly quirky, humorous and warm-hearted story” about a group of pensioners living at the Diamond House retirement home in Stockholm. In order to cut costs and earn more profit, the owner of the home subjects the pensioners to a depressed lifestyle. They are given miserable food, kept from getting proper exercise, and heavily sedated to make managing them easier. One evening while watching TV, the pensioners come to the conclusion that they would be better taken care of in jail than at Diamond House. Martha Andersson, age 79, says “if we want our lives to change, we must do something ourselves” and suggests that they commit a crime worthy of incarceration. And with that, a group of five elderly people bond together to create the League of Pensioners. The first thing they do is to stop taking their pills. This makes them physically and mentally more animated. They are now ready for a life of crime and begin robbing banks, museums, hotel safes, etc. And they begin to change not just because of the money but, as once again they’ve become protagonists in their lives. Organizing and actualizing their heists, they have something to look forward to as that is the real secret to a happy life. As one pensioner said “It is more beautiful to hear a string that snaps, than never to draw a bow.”
Related: Rita and Jerry Alter, retired art thieves + Why Would Two Ordinary People Steal a $160 Million Willem de Kooning Painting? A new documentary tells the tale of a suburban New Mexico couple who allegedly stole the artwork just to hang it behind their bedroom door + The Science Behind Storytelling