“When we reject the “single story” we regain Paradise.”
Here we are, again. September 11. Since that dreadful day in 2001, this date has raised many kinds of stories. Stories of remembering. Stories of loss. Stories of a worldview ruined , re-shaped, even realized for the first time.
When an event causes such deep pain, whatever it does to us, it promises to cause us to retract, to withdraw and to look for a simple way to see life. Deep pain threatens to break all meaning apart. We crave a simple explanation. We want clarity. We want to be able to talk about it with few words and a common understanding. We want a single story.
Thirteen years later, I wonder whether we find ourselves having retreated into a single story of what this date means, or whether we have allowed the Spirit of Courage to help us ponder other stories about this day and what it means. I wonder if we have allowed the Spirit of Compassion to look beyond our pain and ponder the pain of other human beings in the world related or not to this day in our history. I wonder whether we have allowed the Spirit of Curiosity to help us ask questions and seek answers that take us out into the scary places to see what we can see.
If Ngozi Adichie is correct, that rejecting the single story (about anything) allows us to regain Paradise, then we would be correct to predict that embracing the single story–about anything–returns us to hell. There are examples of both. No one could have blamed the congregation of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL if they had embraced the single story of White people after the bombing of their church by White Supremacists and the death of four little girls. They did not. They chose to embrace the multiple stories of White people and all people that allowed them to continue to thrive in a difficult world. Look at every conflict you know of in the world right now. Are they not, each, the product of conflicting sides embracing a single story? Doesn’t this Garden deserve more?
This is a day of deeply painful memory in our nation. Single story, or multi-faceted stories? Which do you find yourself drawn to? From this day forward–more hell, or more paradise?
*TEDTalk featuring Ngozi Adichie