I’ve started paying more attention to the trivial things around me lately. My reasoning? I realized there is a potential storyline in all I see. It was an awe-inspiring moment when I began to look at events, even the tiniest ones, as stories.
On the road the other day, I saw this. It led to the first two lines of one more addition to my WIPs (also, listening to Stanley Fish on NPR inspired): “A plastic dollar store bag was hanging high above the ground, caught in the spindly arms of a leafless winter tree and pregnant with rain from a thousand storms. The bulbous yellow sack was a dozen feet above the ground, lethargically twisting in the tepid evening air.” (Facebook)
This was the beginning of my journey into what I’m calling “selfless discovery.” Instead of discovering oneself, I have been discovering “otherwise.”
There’s the leathery old man leaning with fatigue against the check-out counter at the dollar store – a frightened shoe lying in the middle of the muddy dirt road – the cold house with a boarded window and a dozen cats lounging outside. All of these and more have a story screaming to be told.
A year ago, I had a dream of an elephant floating in the sky. Now, I finally get it: like the expression “an elephant in the room,” my elephant meant I was seeing too many stories to ignore. My “sky” refers to the unlimited supply of writing material all around me, updating every day, every hour, and every minute.
I look at a calendar from last year and see the dates I’ve marked. My 2010 is a complete story in itself. Some events are trivial and some are not. My chapters could be entitled, “January, February,” and so on. It is a diary of my life and the lives of loved ones in 2010.
When I talked to a friend about my epiphany, he congratulated me on my “existential moment.” Although I wanted to agree with him in hopes of polishing up my tarnished new-age persona, the “moment” didn’t feel so much existential as it did experiential.
Curiosity fuels these flames. During my many cross-country driving trips over the years, I’ve always been curious about the lives of the people in the houses I pass. What are their fears, dreams, realities? Are they content or simply existing? What are their stories?
Experiences are stories, even those not of our own. That penny you see on the ground is a novel – the tales it could tell of the many hands it passed through. Think of this the next time you look at . . . anything.
Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch