Valerie Gribben writing a guest editorial in the New York Times discussed life as a doctor in relationship to stories.
Fairy tales are, at their core, heightened portrayals of human nature, revealing, as the glare of injury and illness does, the underbelly of mankind. Both fairy tales and medical charts chronicle the bizarre, the unfair, the tragic. And the terrifying things that go bump in the night are what doctors treat at 3 a.m. in emergency rooms.
I believe in stories. I teach my students that humans think in two ways, through reason and by stories. Often, the stories win out over facts and reason. There’s a good reason for that. Stories are the older of the two methods. We humans have only been trying in any large numbers to use reason and logic since the Enlightenment in the 18th century. The Iliad was being repeated over and over again around campfires for hundreds of years before Christ. And for many thousands of years before that, the storyteller had been working his craft.
In many ways we live by stories. We live several narratives at the same time. In the United States, we have running at the same time, the “city on a hill” narrative along with the “American Dream” story. (Maybe that’s why we foolishly equate success with goodness?) We have our personal story running in synch, opposition to and in tandem with, everybody elses’ dreams.
But Ms. Gribben points to Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I have read a good number. Generally speaking when we think we are familiar with one (Cinderella), our knowledge is based on a Hollywood sanitized version.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales are stories from a world of sadness and terror, fear and danger. They were used to warn and teach about a dangerous world where even the smallest most innocent child was in danger.
I worked with juvenile delinquents for some years. I believe that the sadness in those stories was often mirrored in my clients. And certainly our author here, has found a world of application for these stories.
So, please read her guest column and enjoy.