"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Stories and Symbols and Sheets of Computer Paper

Clearing out the loft this afternoon, a stray sheet of computer paper drifted out of a box. It looks antique with its crude dot matrix printing, perforations and ribbon of holes trimming both edges. I can date it with a fair amount of  precision as it was the product of a mandatory computing unit at North London University (now London Metropolitan University) because no graduate was allowed to leave without at least a nodding acquaintance with word processing.
And what did this message from the past say?
It was a selection of quotes from Mary Robinson, the inspirational Irish President who was elected against the odds, against all conventional wisdom, in 1990.  Her election is thought to be the first time that voters in the Irish Republic made a personal choice rather than cast their ballot according to which side their family fought on in the Civil War 70 years earlier.
She made many memorable speeches as President (and still does as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and I have yet to meet anyone who is Irish and gay who doesn't cherish her words when Gay Rights were finally established in Irish law (welcome to the family of Ireland...you were always part of us even if we didn't recognise it...).
But it is this part of her inaugural speech that has such resonance of writers and story tellers...
Symbols give us our identity, our self image, our way of explaining ourself to ourselves and to others. Symbols in turn determine the kind of stories we tell; and the stories we tell determine the kind of history we make and re-make.

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