Sunday, January 29, 2012

WEEKEND ROUND-UP: PRESIDENT LINCOLN, COMMUNITY PLANNING, MIDDLE AGE


PRESIDENT LINCOLN, STORYTELLER: A post by historian Louis P. Masur on the New York Times "Disunion" blog, about President Lincoln's renown as a storyteller. (Image above is from that NYT blog post.) Masur writes: "Lincoln loved to tell stories. Anyone who met with him commented on his endless supply of anecdotes and jokes. Count Adam Gurowski, a Polish exile who worked in the State Department, observed, 'In the midst of the most stirring and exciting -- nay, death-giving -- news, Mr. Lincoln has always a story to tell.' Ralph Waldo Emerson found it delightful: 'When he has made his remark, he looks up at you with great satisfaction, & Shows all his white teeth, & laughs.' Walt Whitman saw something else in Lincoln's storytelling; he thought it was a 'weapon which he employ'd with great skill.' " An interesting post, well worth a read.  

STORIES AND COMMUNITY PLANNING: CommunityMatters is a commons for people and organizations to build "strong, vibrant communities from the ground up." Here's the podcast of an hour-long conference call they sponsored last week on "Storytelling for Community Planning," featuring facilitator Barbara Ganley, Betsy Rosenbluth of the Orton Family Foundation, and participants from around the country. They discuss how stories can be used to identify values, strengthen relationships, and guide the community planning process. Also available on the site are notes from the call.

MIDDLE AGE AS A "STORY WE TELL ABOUT OURSELVES": A Slate podcast interview with New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen, whose new book, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age, traces the social history of the idea of middle age -- which was not always seen as a discrete phase of life. At one point in the podcast, Cohen says that middle age is perhaps best defined as "a story that we tell about ourselves. We all try and make sense of our lives in some way. We construct a narrative. It can be a narrative of redemption, of triumph, of loss, of grief. And we put these into a kind of narrative as we go along. At one point the story of middle age was a story of power and influence, and over time it changed to become a story of decline, and now I think it's in flux again."

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