Understanding the Assignment

I’ve been working on a new writing project and, naturally, am bumping up against the same writing gremlins that have previously kept me away from it. The main thing they like to tell me is that I can’t write a story because I don’t have a story in me. All I have are moments. Which got me to thinking. 

They are moments. Indelible ones. I can call them to mind anytime I choose. But they are moments, not stories. 

The story lies in the ways those moments have informed who I am and what I do. None of us is fixed; we are, at any given moment, a collection of cells, experiences, hormones, fragments of memory, bacteria, reactions—to the temperature, the season, the quality of light surrounding the sights and smells, and so on. The story lies in the spooky entanglement between the collections we contain and collections contained in those around us. Or even those nowhere near us. No entanglement, no story. 

Which got me to thinking. 

If it’s true that no entanglement equals no story, and I believe it’s true, it makes particularly ridiculous the notion that any of us is strong enough—or damaged enough, for that matter—to be alone. We are the story, but only so long as we are interacting. And we are never not interacting. Someone who has chosen isolation has done so based on interactions with other people. Based on the stories that were created from those interactions. 

Like any myth, one of our most revered myths here in the US, the Lone Cowboy, contains elements of truth. So too the Utterly Independent Homesteader. But at their core, what we have accepted as a discrete identity was only ever a snapshot. A moment, in an ever-expanding galaxy of moments. No infant can survive alone. No adult can survive alone. Everything that keeps us alive came from someone, somewhere, some thing. A refusal to acknowledge critical moments does not render them untrue. But so many of us have been told otherwise. Centuries and centuries of us have believed it and perpetuated it. And that’s how we’ve landed here, at this particular moment.

When you believe the story that interdependency is weakness, you are at odds with the inalienable truth that we are rooted in biology, and as such we need one another. I wonder, if we’re mostly missing the forest for the trees, if we’re overlooking the fact that we’re all a part of something much larger, then what else are we overlooking? What actually is the assignment? 

Which gets me to thinking. 

If we were at peace with the overwhelmingly clear facts of our existence, our fundamental need for one another, what other stories might we be living?