Naming with Wonder and Love through Story

Last week, I referred to an interview in which children’s book author, Kate DiCamillo said that life is chaos and art is pattern. She said as well that story and other arts are genuine if they name life truthfully but with love. She cites Charlotte’s Web as an example. E. B. White, its author, tells of the sad death of Charlotte, the spider, yet does so with a genuine love.

She suggests that: “E. B. White loved the world. And in loving the world, he told the truth about it — its sorrow, its heartbreak, its devastating beauty. He trusted his readers enough to tell them the truth, and with that truth came comfort and a feeling that we were not alone.” Her words recall my experience with the novels of Margaret Lawrence. She reveals flaws in all her characters, yet really loves them.

Author, Sam Keen in his interview and book, Your Mythic Journey, says that, in any relationship, we discover that neither we nor the other person lives up to our idealized picture. We are then faced with the challenge of whether we can love this “flawed creature.” It is interesting that the word flaw has the same origin as a flake of snow, a flagstone or piece of stone, or indeed a fragment, that is, a broken piece, of anything.

We all experience some degree of brokenness, a lack of wholeness, a fragmentation, and the accompanying sense of pain and sorrow and loss. The challenge, as we have said many times, is to recognize at once this flawed character, in ourselves, others, and our world, yet still maintain its sacred worth. It is to blend truth with kindness, including towards ourselves. It is to love the flawed yet sacred creature in each of us.

In saying that “ life is chaos and art is pattern,” Kate DiCamillo echoes the creation stories from many traditions. They speak of drawing meaning out of chaos, often through words, which usually means, in effect, through stories. She observes that she tries “to make sense of the world through stories.” And adds: “We have been given the task of making hearts large through story. We are working to make hearts that are capable of containing much joy and much sorrow, hearts capacious enough to contain the complexities and mysteries of ourselves and of each other.”

We have spoken of the heart as the core or centre of a person from which flow and into which are gathered all the experiences of life. A heart made large is one that is stretched to experience widely and deeply and, in that process, to learn to love. Referring to the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, she speaks of experiencing the totality of life with a sense of wonder, and then of naming it with love.

It reminds me of the story of Pandora, as retold by myself and my six-year-old godson, which I will include here.

     Pandora’s Box.
Once upon a time, there was a lovely young woman named Pandora. Her name means all the gifts, and she was endowed with all the gifts that any person could want. She had a beautiful box that she kept unlocked by her side for a long time.

One day she thought that it was time to open the box. So she called all the people she knew and even many that she did not yet know. She gathered them all around her and brought out the beautiful box.

She then carefully and gently inserted the gold key and turned it. The lock clicked open. She slowly lifted the lid, And out came all kinds of creatures, some beautiful, and a few others not so. Out flew joy and peace, wisdom and courage, truth and justice, compassion and strength. But then came fear and hurt, sadness and anger. And finally hope and love.

The people were confused. They recognized all the feelings but did not know how they fit together. Then hope spoke. “Sometimes you will feel afraid, and sometimes you will be sad or angry. But I will always be with you if you turn to me. And I will help you in difficult times.”

Then love spoke. “You will sometimes feel lonely and lost, but turn to me and I will walk with you. I will lead you to people who will care for you. And I will help you to care for people too. Then I will be like the box that contains everything within something beautiful.

“And you will know that the box is life. It contains everything, It contains all the feelings. But it is a beautiful box, and it will always be open.”
Retold by Aidan and Norm

May you find your own inner story, the story at the heart of who you are. And may you respond to your story with a heart of wonder and love. And may you expand that heartfelt story in ever wider circles, for the healing of the world.

Norman King. April 04, 2022