By Leslie Marmon Silko
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
All we have to fight off
Illness and death.
You don’t have anything
If you don’t have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
But it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
Let the stories be confused or forgotten.
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.
He rubbed his belly.
I keep them here
Here, put your hand on it
See, it is moving.
There is life here
For the people.
And in the belly of this story
The rituals and the ceremony
Are still growing.
There have been many occasions when I have turned to this poem. This poem captivates my passion for narrative. Narrative is what gives humanity life and meaning. One key aspect of this poem on which I have heavily leaned is the idea of healing. Stories is what mends our wounds. It is through the stories that we create that we understand our place in this world.
For me, when the world seems upside-down. When I feel lost in the darkness. When I feel myself falling towards oblivion: I turn to the stories.
Many who know me tell me that I don’t hesitate at jumping into the unknown. People have told me that I am relentless, that I keep pushing forward, and that I keep growing.
I’ve been told that I’m invincible.
However, most of the time I don’t feel powerful, or resilient. I’m often terrified: I often wrestle with insecurities and anxieties as I go throughout the day. I’m a little over a year into being up here in San Jose, and I’m constantly in an odd, familiar un-comfortability. This hasn’t been the first time that I’ve walked into a space where I didn’t know a single person.
It is through the stories that I read and hear that brings peace to my mind. It is through the stories that I find empathy and community. Through the relation to the other, my wounds begin to heal. As impervious I seem, I still bleed. Silko notes in her poem that the defense against evil, the healing of wounds, the growing of the individual, doesn’t happen alone. The stories are all that we have to fight of illness and death.
A couple months ago that thought knocked me off of my feet. After being up here with just my roommate for six months, I began to feel isolated. I felt as if I severed myself. I felt like I was uprooted and wasting away. I didn’t have a community. The Void felt like a heavier burden than usual. It was when my darkest thoughts crept in, that I realized that I needed to reach out. I needed to step out of my door and get connected so that I could heal. I knew that was what I was so desperately needed, but I was crippled with anxiety and self-doubt.
But somehow, by God’s grace, I have met a few excellent and wonderful people at the church I began to more regularly attend. I am excited to get to know more about their stories, and what gives them life and meaning.
There’s this painting, by Edward Hopper. Called Rooms by the Sea. I have a small poster print that is pasted next to the front door of my apartment. It’s always the last thing I see before I leave my home. Just as a brief description, there are two rooms that the viewer can see in the painting. One is towards the back, there are sofas and furniture, offering a sense of stability. The main room towards the front, however, is completely open, and there is a door that leads to nothing but the sea. A large ray of sunlight enters the room from the right of the painting.
I could get into the “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave” interpretation of this painting, but I’m not going to do that to you. I remember my AP Literature teacher pulling this painting up in his class and asking, “Which room do you see yourself in?” Right now, I see myself right on the edge of that front room. I can feel the sun burning my stupid white face and the soft touch of the sea’s mist. I know that any moment I’m going to take that step, and fully plunge into something new. And I just have this feeling—
That it is going to be incredible.
Thank you for reading.