We are what are told and tell.


My interest in stories lies in the fact that, in many respects, I have a professional obligation to better know a story, and how it is told. The methods with which I conduct myself in certain settings determines whether I am acknowledged positively or otherwise.

Let’s take, for example, a lecture. Being a lecturer means that we are constantly communicating. The difference between lecturers lies in the differences they have (and choose to have) in communicating their ideas. Some lecturers prefer to speak, using nothing more than their oratory abilities to convey meanings. Others can’t live without the combination of audiovisual complements; I myself fall prey to this, largely because I believe it is the best method to get the most concentrated form of attention (my voice and I, alone, up there, on stage, holding people’s attention? Please…).

So what do we do up there, then? Well, simply put, we tell stories. We stand up and move around, waving our hands and pointing our fingers. A click here will lead to the appropriate slides, which has their own stories to tell. Words and pictures tag with each other, as they deliver the message of the moment, be it a fictional concoction of half-truths, or a delivery of trues stories based on the half-truths that we see and hear.

Lectures are a kind of story. The pictures used, the films screened, the knowledge and ideas I impart…they are all a kind of story. Think back to the very basic definition of the word ‘story’. What is a story? Some sources would cite it simply as a basic recounting of events. True events? Yup, like what happened at work today. Not so true events? Yup, like the movies we watch.

How do we know that these are true events or stories? Consider the methods of verification utilised. We hear that someone is of child. We call up another friend to confirm; that friend will narrate the sequence of events as she best understands it. Even if she does not, she will deliver something that will somewhat resemble a modicum of the truth that is the situation itself. Stories being verified by other stories.

Perhaps we fire up our laptops, and log on to the Internet. Sign into Facebook, and voila…you are bombarded with all sorts of stories, all sorts of events in all sorts of sequences. Sequence here is important, too; upon signing in, you’ll be delivered the kind of information that has been post the latest. Not the best, the truest, but the newest. Putting that aside, it could have been something done with monetary considerations behind it, as Facebook seek to monetise its product.

You check your friend’s profile, stalk them through their pictures. Each word, each picture there, tells you what she has done. What universities she attended, who she is dating, what she had for lunch that day. Again, stories of a person’s life, whether begotten through face-to-face communications or extracted via more digital means, are what we are dealing with.

We close the laptop, feeling somewhat satisfied. We turn on the news, flick open the newspaper, have a brief look through our messages. Signs and symbols, delivering signifieds and meanings we’ve been conditioned to understand. Even when we don’t understand it, we get the fact that we don’t understand it; the usage of the hashtag in Twitter, for example, is something that we probably know, but attempting to come up with a conclusive definition rudimentary enough for simple storytelling  explanation is tricky.

Of course, to say that we believe in everything we hear and see is not an argument that believes in the human agency. I believe that we still do have the power in many respects to decide for ourselves. In this context, then/though, the upholding of our beliefs and ideas is dependent guessed it, stories. Even when confronted with stories that suggests otherwise, we seek validation in the stories we know and turn to as 'the truth'; there are loads of stories out there, and we shall, as is our supposed right, pick and choose the ones we want to believe in.

The books we read, the news we hear, the films we watch, the religion we believe in, the faiths and ideals we hold dear and close to us. If the very foundations of these are not entirely constructed of a story, their continued existence lives on by way of storied verifications. Our own experiences, perhaps, may not necessarily qualify, for the are in themselves the actual sequence of events. They exist in their own right as…life.

Once we tell of our life to others, though…would that not qualify that version of our life as a story itself?

Is it possible, therefore, to consider ourselves as being beyond the stories we are told and tell?