I like to collect experiences and examples that illustrate a spiritual lesson. They serve as reference points that help me to connect with the truth of the insight, not just the idea.
I use them to remind me what it actually takes to stand in my truth, or make a different choice when I realize I’m acting out of fear, or follow my intuition even when it doesn’t make sense.
Now a new one has presented itself to me in the form of a documentary about what might have happened to D.B. Cooper.
First, it summarizes how he was never found after parachuting into the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest from a plane he had hijacked in 1971. Next, you meet someone who claims, very plausibly, to have known him (as his new identity) before he died. Lots of evidence is offered to illustrate how likely it is that this man had been Cooper.
Seems like the case is pretty much solved.
Then, you meet several other people, including law enforcement investigators, who all offer completely different stories about completely different people – each seeming to have been our mystery man. There are even deathbed confessions. Each version, in a vacuum, is pretty convincing.
But they can’t all be true.
Since then, I have found myself using it as one of my reference points. I discovered my takeaway was that stories may contain facts but they are still someone’s perspective, and no matter how persuasive they might be, it doesn’t make them the truth.
Everyone in the film believed, for very good and understandable reasons, that they knew what actually happened. And in the absence of the other versions, I probably would have believed any one of them.
I would have accepted their perspective as the truth.
Now obviously we can’t just call everything into question all the time. We have to treat a few things as givens to get through the day.
But almost everything we experience is shaped by an enormous amount of colliding stories. Stories about who we are, who they are, why this is happening, what it means, what they are thinking or feeling, how we got here, etc.
- I’m not just calling customer service, I’m participating in the continuing saga of how big corporations are here just to screw us.
- I’m not just putting a picture on social media, I’m telling other people who I would like them to think I am.
- I’m not just going to dinner with my wife, we’re returning to our special place where we got engaged and go every year on our anniversary to remind us how meaningful our relationship is.
Stories happen automatically. They explain and give context to the never-ending flow of large and small events of life. They help us engage with the depth and meaning of our experience.
The difficulty tends to be when the story doesn’t serve us. When we’ve outgrown it, when it tells us we’re less than we are, when it confines us to our limited interpretation of what is and what can be.
This happens when we let stories harden into “facts” that then get used as evidence to show how we aren’t worthy, how we can expect to be thwarted, who can’t be trusted, why we will never be safe.
They help to create and reinforce our belief systems, which end up controlling our lives.
Next time I’ll share where some of my most powerful stories came from and how no longer seeing them as the truth, changed them and me.
If your spirit is prompting you to have a conversation about your stories, I encourage you to consider working with me.