Pass it on

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It was not a story to pass on…

So in the end, they forgot her too. Remembering seemed unwise…

It was not a story to pass on…

So they forgot her…They can touch it if they like, but don’t because they know things will never be the same if they do…

This is not a story to pass on.

-Toni Morrison, Beloved

 

I first read Beloved in college—required reading for an African American Women’s Literature course. At the time, I thought I knew my country’s history, but Morrison’s testament to the horrors of slavery opened my eyes and filled them with tears.

 

This time around, I read Beloved with different eyes; eyes that were no longer so idealistic, eyes that had seen much pain and much joy, and eyes that held many of her own stories. And I find myself asking, what are my personal stories, my people’s stories, my humanity’s stories? Which do I remember? Which do I pass on?

 

These aren’t easy questions, because passing on stories is no easy task. This is what Morrison means when she writes–this is not a story to pass on. She is telling us to that storytelling is not for the faint of heart. Storytelling wakes us up, reminds us of forgotten pain, makes us re-live that pain, and shakes us out of complacency. Because once we start telling that story, there’s no going back. Storytelling will not endure amnesia.

 

And all of these stories—personal and public—come flooding out, as they should! Maybe this conviction comes with age; you just get tired of living with the lies. They just don’t work anymore. And you want to clear your house, your head, and you don’t mind upsetting the proverbial applecart. Because in the end, you know it’s not about me or about you; it’s about all of us. Because in the end, you know not one of us thrives when we live with lies.

 

I think a lot about stories as I celebrate Passover. I think about the commandment to teach our children our story and encourage them never again to be enslaved—not to another person, not to a chemical substance, not to an idea.

 

We all have so many stories—our personal stories, our people’s stories, humanity’s stories. All of these stories—the ones we already know and the ones yet to come to light—must be passed on, again and again. Yes, Toni, these all are the stories that must be passed on.

One Comment on “Pass it on

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