All That We Are Is Story

ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.
Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada

“All that we are is story.”  I immediately recognized the truth of that when I read it recently (maybe because it helped make a little sense of this compulsion I have to write so much).   And is the connection I’ve noticed between several seemingly separate things I’ve been thinking and writing about recently.

One of those is related to the discussion about our Quaker queries. “One of the keys of Quakerism has always been our faith is not limited to Sunday services. That we strive to live every moment of our lives faithfully. That relates to the concept of putting our faith into action. The actions are how we live our own lives. This is also related to the ideas above about pushing and pulling. Rather than pushing our beliefs on others, we try to live our own lives in such a manner as to pull others into living the truth we try to model by our lives.”  The examples of how we live our own lives are our stories.

In that same blog post I also wrote something that I’ve been thinking about since: “But this does lead me to reflect on what I have seen as my failure to get Friends and others to stop using fossil fuels. I know I was lead to live without a car, and have written about the many unexpected blessings that occurred in my life as a result. What puzzles and disappoints me is I had thought my example of living without a car would influence others, but it has not.”  The thing is that others often are influenced by people’s example, without that person ever knowing that.  Perhaps something occurs in another time or place.  When I said I felt I had failed to influence others by my refusal to own a car, I was talking in the narrow sense of not being aware of a single person I knew who gave up their car.  But as I’ve shared before, many people throughout my life have made comments that let me know they were aware of my refusal to own a car.  People know this story.

Since giving up cars was a strong and persistent spiritual leading, I couldn’t help but wonder why God didn’t help make people give up their cars?  Faith is believing if we are as faithful as we can be, the rest is in God’s hands.

The other threads related to stories have been sharing the journal entries from my time at Scattergood Friends School.   And, related to those, the recent discussion in particular about the example of Quaker men who refused to participate in war.  Evalyn Kellum (Quaker) expressed that very well. “That statement and all those Quaker men, who were conscription age at that time affected so much in their life times. They helped shape each of the major Quaker institutions of the time and their impact continues to do so.”  Their stories demonstrate we are story.

Many in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) have been concerned about how stories of Friends are lost when those Quakers die.  My mother in particular has tried to get Friends to write some of those stories so they are preserved, and can be shared with others.  That lead to the creation of the Quaker Stories Project, that you are encouraged to read, share with others, and add your own stories to.  (one way to do that is email

“All that we are is story.”


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2 Responses to All That We Are Is Story

  1. Karen says:

    Where exactly did you read the Richard Wagamese quote you have referenced here – which book, which page?

    • Jeff Kisling says:

      I believe I first saw that quote on Goodreads:
      But looking for the exact citation, I did not find it. Is this something you know about?

      What I did find are a variety of quotes that contain parts of the Goodreads quote.

      We are all story. That’s what my people say. From the moment we enter this physical reality to the moment we depart again as spirit, we are energy moving forward to the fullest possible expression of ourselves. All the intrepid spirits who come to this reality make that same journey. In this we are joined. We are one. We are, in the end, one story, one song, one spirit, one soul. This is what my people say.

      Wagamese, Richard. One Story, One Song (p. 2). Douglas and McIntyre (2013) Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

      In the end, we bear away exactly what we bore in: a soul, a spirit, a song. Creator asks us to work at discovering the fullest possible expression of ourselves. When we do that, when we embark on that most definitive of tasks, we become Creator’s experience of life. Regardless of how we make the journey, we grant the idea of life back to its source: the infinite power of the universe. That is also what my people say. Our story becomes part of the great grand story of Creation. For many years, I travelled unaware of this immense responsibility. Like so many of us, I was preoccupied with the chores of life, the to-and-fro routines of getting, having and becoming. It takes a concentrated spiritual focus to realize why we are here—to live out the best possible story of our time on this earth. You can’t do that when your focus is on material security. You can’t do that when your desire is to have. You can do it only when you realize that we all carry a common wish, a common hope. Love expresses itself most fully in community. So does spirituality. What binds us together as a human family is our collective yearning to belong, and we need to share our stories to achieve that. Stories build bridges to undiscovered countries—each other. A very wise man once told me, “No one ever pulled up to heaven with a U-Haul.” What matters is what we bear away within us: the story, the song of our living.

      Wagamese, Richard. One Story, One Song (pp. 4-6). Douglas and McIntyre (2013) Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

      My people say that each of us is a story, part of the great, grand tale of humanity. In the end, the story of our time here is all we have. When you offer a tale in the Ojibway manner, you do so for the story’s sake. If we could honour each voice in that way and allow it to resonate, what a wonderful clamour that would be.

      Wagamese, Richard. One Story, One Song (p. 77). Douglas and McIntyre (2013) Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

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