My old friend was visiting from France and I took her on a walk along a trail that meanders along the Bay. That’s what’s great about the Bay Area. Ten minutes from home and we’re sliding on seaweed slicked rocks and watching pelicans. I started to tell her a story that dated back thirty plus years ago, then stopped myself with an apology that of course, she had heard it many times before. She said the most interesting thing.
“A wheel goes around and around as it moves forward. You don’t have to throw out the wheel and invent something new.” I paused to digest that. It resonated with my experience working with people. Sometimes a person starts to tell me a story from his or her past, or brings up an issue that we have already examined, maybe more than once.
As I listen with fresh ears, I often discover that the event is being seen with a new perspective, from “the perch of time” as writer Maya Angelou so beautifully put it in her classic book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Sometimes I realize that I didn’t hear the whole story in the past, but focused in on one element that stood out and may have missed the bigger picture.
Memories change with the focus of the viewer and our stories change as we open ourselves to new perspectives. Story telling has been a means of passing on spiritual inheritance since the dawn of civilization. The technology of printing, and more recently the inventions of the digital age, allow us to preserve our stories. But we also need to be alert not to freeze our ideas in print, but rather let them continue to grow and breathe, and become a mythology that can be rewritten with time and wisdom.
I felt comforted by my friend’s vision of the wheel moving forward. Maybe that’s a good reminder to ask ourselves, especially in regard to the stories we repeat over and over in our brain: Have I gotten stuck in a rut, or is the turning of this wheel, this tale, this memory, moving me forward on my path?
That’s today’s food for thought. What’s your experience re-turning the memory?