Secrets or stories? Who decides?

In the film The Stories we Tell director Sarah Polley interviews members of her family & their circle about events in their history. She plays with the documentary genre in artful & artistic ways. While it begins as a film about her father and her dead mother it becomes a detective story about Polley’s own beginnings. Different people answer her questions in often contradictory ways as events and circumstances are re-assessed. The film raises questions like “who owns our stories? whose stories are they to tell?”.

line art example of concentric.
Photo credit: Wikipedia

An interviewee talks about concentric circles of ownership. The inner circle consists of only the people who were involved in an event (participants), the next circle contains people who were told by those involved, further out are the people who became aware of the story in some other way.

He espouses the view that only the participants own the story and the right to tell or not tell (in which case the film would never have been made).

What about people who are affected but are not the active participants? Some people have ambiguous stories about their beginnings – perhaps because of trauma in childhood, adoption, displacement, loss. Who gets to own or tell their stories?

Journal Prompt:

1) Write about an event or relationship from some time in your life (either something you remember or something you’ve been told about). Write in the first person

2) Re-write it from the perspective of another participant.

3) Write it a third time from the perspective of someone not a participant but who would have known about it, either at the time or later.

An article in the New York Times comments on research that shows:

The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

Journal prompt: Write down a family story – one that’s part of your family narrative, the kind

English: Classical Seven-Circuit Labyrinth
English: Classical Seven-Circuit Labyrinth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 of story that gets re-told at family gatherings.

Is there anyone you could share your writing with? Would they agree with your version?

Who decides what is the truth of the accepted family narrative? In novels the truth is sometimes revealed, as in Elizabeth Strout‘s recent novel The Burgess Boys (where people have to re-evaluate their lives and constructed identities as a result)  or not, as in Sarah Butler’s 10 Things I’ve Learnt about Love (a novel with Lists of 10 between each chapter – a useful journal technique when short of time!)

Perhaps it is only by writing the story or making the film that we know what our story is and begin to own it……

Jiro Dreams of Sushi….what do you dream of?

This week I went to see the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Jiro is an 85 year old Tokyo sushi chef who has devoted his life to sushi (practically since leaving home at the age of 9) and to improving his skills, to seeking the perfect sushi. He works every day, from sunrise to late in the evening, has done for many decades. This commitment, this focus, this dedication is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. There are no relationships in this world except through the work – his sons work for him or near him (there are apparently no women in this world).

He advocates doing the same thing over and over again; it’s sushi-making almost as a spiritual practice or ‘walking a path’.

Journal Prompt

Write about something you do over and over again. Is it an action? A ritual? A habit?

What are you commited to? What do you ‘practice’? 

Explore your own practices – do these include journal writing?

For further exploration of journal writing as a spiritual practice see Christina Baldwin’s   Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest which offers a lot of ideas and exercises for developing your journal as a practice. Or recommend your favourite books on this topic here.

Two films…..

I went to see A Dangerous Methodthe new film about the relationship between Freud and Jung, oh and the relationship between Jung and his patient Sabine Spielrein. On one level it’s a lovely costume drama with Swiss scenery, on another it’s a thought-provoking tale of the birth of psychoanalysis. And there are too many other levels to go into here. I had dinner with a jungian analyst who said: “It’s an interpretation…”

Have you seen it? What did you think?

The relationship between Jung & Sabine, depicted in all its physicality, seemed to me to cross some patient-doctor boundaries….. as for the relationship between Freud & Jung, the aging, politically aware pragmatist, and the young, otherworldly, impractical (except for not divorcing his wealthy wife) sensualist…….

Tree on Sanitas
Tree on Sanitas on Monday. From this ........

Earlier this week it felt as if summer had arrived. The sky took on that deep Colorado blue, the rocks were sun-warmed and glowing, the trails were full of scents of pinon, spruce and juniper….

The second film was the 2001 made-for-tv film Wit starring Emma Thompson as a cerebral professor of English Literature (lecturing on Donne’s sonnet Death, be not proud). 

The doctor-patient relationship leaves something to be desired here too. It doesn’t involve sado-masochistic sex but shows the doctor as researcher and the patient as guinea pig. this: view from here on Wednesday

The professor recalls the moment when she became aware that words were going to be important to her, that they could do things. She’s reading The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies on the floor at her father’s feet (Harold Pinter). She struggles to spell out S-O-P-OR-I-FIC and her father distractedly explains the meaning. I vividly remember such a flopsy bunnies moment at about the same age. That’s how I learnt soporific – and other words she remembered resonated…..ratiocination, esoteric, arcane (back to Jung again) on hill walks in the English Lake District (Beatrix Potter again?)

Journal prompt: Write about your own Flopsy Bunnies moment or moments – the times when you realised your own relationship with words was gong to be interesting (either particular words or reading/writing in general). Who taught you to love words?