Working With Big Culture Stories to find Our Selves
Much of the craft of my apprenticeship– what I think of as my time in graduate school- was discovering a practice around working with literature and myth.
I've always known, along with folks like Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, that what matters most about learning how to work with our culture's stories is that they show us the larger patterns of working with our own life story– to find the plot and the patterns. In that sense the great big culture stories are in conversation with our life stories.
This kind of "story work" is a literary act of comparison- where we evoke a narrative field, (you can do this orally or textually), like what you did in English class when you compared one text to another.
What that comparison allows you to do is start to work with patterns.
Another way to talk about this work is by the metaphor of "conversation."
We put the stories of our lived expereince in conversation with archetypal stories, so that we create a field of meaning.
In this way, the archetypal story works mandala like, almost like a magnet.
The archetypal tale pulls our story into focus. The comparison reframes our seeing of our own story so that we can actually see broad patterns, plots, affording us insight into meaning.
Through this dialogue, we come understand and language just how we are living out the grave and constant themes that make us human.