“Story allows us to make information productive. Without Story, information is nothing but a lot of bricks lying about waiting for someone to make constructive use of them.” – Aidan Chambers

Making Meaning



That’s what stories do.  And that’s why humans tell stories.

What follows is a repeat of my first-ever blog post, from February 5, 2014…I didn’t know at the time that I would be doing this A-Z Daily Challenge –

and for today’s letter M…I can’t think of a better aspect of storytelling to reflect on. Here’s the story…

Do You Know This “Secret Power” of Story?

It was a glorious Colorado autumn day! Ohhhhh, let me throw open the door and step out into the blue-sky bright-sunshine lovely-fresh air! Glorious! Deep breath, big smile…

Then –

– What – IS – that – horrific – SOUND?????!!!!!!!????!!!!!!

Mind-exploding, body-penetrating, growing-unbelievably-loud assault on my ears and my brain!! What the-? Geez! – Military jets! Thundering towards, flying directly overhead!!

“Oh – I – HATE – this!!!”
 I bellowed. I jumped back inside and slammed the door and scared the dog (poor dog!).


Bit of context: I’m especially attentive (some would say overly-sensitive) to sound in general (which is helpful as a musician, and for learning languages and accents, and for many aspects of storytelling); and while I adore nature sounds like birdsong and brookbabble and elk bugling, I cannot stand (!) the sound of leaf blowers, and several other kinds of machine sounds (hmm, do I have a mild case of misophonia? – that’s a different discussion).


I was relishing the quiet neighborhood on that work-at-home day – and my expectations and peace were not only dashed, but tortured and destroyed in that moment! So I, naturally (?!), screamed in rage! (Yikes… What, was I trying to drown out the beyond-thunderous noise attacking me from above?)

Well. I slammed the door, scared the doggie (sorry!), whipped around to my laptop that just happened to be open to Facebook –

– and – my – experience – changed – INSTANTLY.

A friend had that moment posted: “Just saw the jets fly by for astronaut Scott Carpenter!!! Neat!”

My reality changed INSTANTLY. INSTANTLY!


Instead of this story: “Ahh! – it’s lusciously quiet for today’s work and just the way I like it, lucky me!” – and then BAM, “My brain is being assaulted! By horrible machine sounds, and I hate horrible machine sounds, and how can I work or relax or anything now when I’ve been enraged by these horrible machine sounds and – poor me, poor me, poor me!…”

…Instead of all that, it’s suddenly a completely different story: The story of Scott Carpenter, the magnificent pioneer astronaut “local boy” from Boulder, Colorado, who I’ve respected and admired so very much, for whom I’d made my own farewell post on Facebook when he’d died in October…

…and for whom the military jets had just flown overhead at the end of his memorial service for a poignant, public, emotional and so-fitting farewell.


The new story gave completely new meaning to what was happening around me – and absolutely changed my experience. Changed ME. In this instance, my selfish and excessive anger over my interrupted peace was instantly replaced by:

  • gratitude and respect for Carpenter’s courageous and important work,
  • sorrow at his passing,
  • and yes, lump-in-the-throat appreciation for the dramatic military show of honor with the overhead jets.

The new story in my mind absolutely and almost-shockingly changed my reality.

Stories do that.

Stories make meaning. (Just one of their secret powers!)


Want to read more?…

If you’re intrigued by the thought, “our experience of the world is shaped by our interpretations of it,” you might find this interesting reading:

You also may be interested in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall. We’ll be looking at it from time to time in future posts.

Thanks for reading – Pam

(P.S. The glorious photo at the top of the page is one I took while on one of my favorite walking paths here in Colorado.  Nice backdrop for the Scott Carpenter memorial fly-by, eh?)