Recently I was trying, inadequately, to explain to my wife and daughter the power of a good story to make a point or convey an idea, or change a perspective or even change a person – so much more powerful than addressing the idea or point to be made directly, with logic. I am always struck when someone is talking about a particular subject and I realize the analogous import of what they are saying to something completely different. The juxtaposition of the two makes it all the more powerful. In my days of trying to convince people of the value of historic preservation and downtown revitalization I always wished I had the stories that would hit their heart and transform their opinion.
I am not good at explaining things, arguing points, using logic. So I was frustrated in my inability to convey what I wanted to Kristi and Megan. Today I started what looks to be a wonderful book called Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey to Navigate Life’s Perils and Pitfalls, written by Norman Fishcer a Zen Buddhist teacher. He articulates so well what I was unable to convey to my family members about the power of story.
While Fischer talks about metaphor, it is also story. He says:
“Metaphors condition, far more than we realize, the way we think about ourselves and our world, and therefore the way we are and act.
“Metaphors can engage our imagination and spirit, transporting us beyond the literality of what seems to be in front of us toward what’s deeper, more lively and dynamic. Objects in the world can be defined, measured, and manipulated according to our specifications. But the heart can’t be.”
For me, my preservation and downtown work was work of the heart. I didn’t have the stories I needed or the story telling capacity to affect the heart of others as I would have liked. I hope my two beautiful kids are better at story telling than I when they need it in life.
Fischer’s book uses the story of the Odyssey to talk about the return home spiritually. This is the hero’s journey – the second half of the hero’s journey. The first half is that of going out to conquer. The second half, Odysseus’s story, is about his return home. This is the story of each of us, what the second half of life is all about – and certainly where I am in life today.
It is a beautiful place to be. I love it and am so anxious to be done with the outward journey, which is the income producing work we are bringing to a close this year. I am ready to settle into the return home. As Fischer says:
“The Odyssey has remained alive for us these thousands of years because its metaphors are so astonishingly true to life. We are Odysseus. Having made mighty efforts in our youthful days of bright hope, we essentially become tired to the point of becoming realistic about our prospects. We realize we are not heroes. Yet we must go on with the journey, see it through until the end, even if, from time to time, we have to stop by the side of the road and weep. . . . The emotional pull of home is compelling, no matter what we may think of it. We’ve got to get home.”
I do feel the compelling pull of this homeward voyage. Actually, I have a much more positive view of this journey – both outward and back – than Fischer articulates. I feel blessed in the passion and joy my work gave me these past forty years. And I look at the coming home as a beautiful homecoming, though I have no idea what it will be or what is in store. I am so lucky to look forward with joyful anticipation!