In Of Human Bondage, William Somerset Maugham describes the uniqueness of each life creating a pattern similar to the texture and intricate design of a Persian rug.
He analogized that our life experiences create a unique and elaborate weave and texture that ends in the design of our lives similar to a Persian rug that can only be appreciated and seen when it is finished—or, in human terms, at the time of death.
The point, he says, is that our life experiences are what create this magical pattern, not how we live our lives.
What is intriguing about this point of view of life is that absolutely everything we experience, each story we tell or memory we relive, is essential to creating the pattern that becomes the unique design that is our lives. Telling stories is a way of continuing other people’s essence beyond their lives. I find that incredibly powerful.
On Facebook a few weeks ago, my friend Jonathan shared an old family photo he’d found. The picture was of a wedding dress his father had made. I was astonished by the beauty and intricacy of the dress. But mostly what amazed me was that I knew nothing about his father’s skill. “How did I not know this about your father?” I responded.
He promised to tell me more. True to his word, Jonathan sent me an email telling me more about his father.
“He was born in Ostroleka, Poland/Russia, in 1898 and was brought to London with his parents in the 1900s. . . . His grandfather was a very skilled tailor who had no trouble finding work on Savile Row.”
In the mid-1920s, Jonathan continued, “my father and grandfather along with a couple of his brothers started a women's clothing manufacturing business. My mother ran the shop, my father did the alterations and occasionally took on projects like the wedding dress or copying something from the Paris fashions that a client requested.
“The legend was that my grandfather was the better craftsman but my father was the more versatile. Pop could do just about anything with his hands from men's and women's clothing, to cabinet making, upholstery, hanging wallpaper, etc.”
This was such an amazing glimpse into a family. I realize it is just a few words but that is the point: it only takes a few words to get a peek into another life.
Stories have power. They have the ability to keep people’s essences alive. Thinking back to William Somerset Maugham’s Persian rug metaphor, each interaction we have becomes a part of who we are. Each story we hear or interaction we have becomes part of our unique pattern. As we continue to carry others’ stories with us, they in turn continue to inspire others. It is a real way to keep people’s spirits alive.
Our stories and memories are an essential part of our lives and as it turns out they need to be shared to keep their power alive.
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