The Single Story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories and nonfiction.  The “single story” is a term she coined in reference to the generalizations and stereotypes that we make in regards to cultural, racial, gender, creed, etc. identity.  I cannot say this in any better way than she does in this Ted Talk.

Please make yourself a cup of tea, light a candle and sit for twenty minutes to learn from a fine teacher.

“The Danger of a Single Story” Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Contemplation:
Consider the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as you go about your day, encountering others.  Gently notice those times when you classify someone according to first impressions or any other “single story” responses.  This is an exercise in self-observation.

More Practice with Noticing the Details

When I meet someone new, it is not unusual for my mind to form “judgments” or “conclusions” about him or her.  Before I can count to three, I’ve made up my mind in some way.  Once I have this inner judgment, I log it as “true” unless or until I learn otherwise.  First impressions are powerful and I wonder how many times they are correct?  I’m guessing there are a few studies.

How certain can you be about what you actually see?  What filters do you wear as you view something?  I know there have been tales of five individuals witnessing an event and, afterwards, each one relates it differently. Interesting.

Years ago, I was hiking in a designated wilderness area.  I don’t wear my glasses while hiking.  As I passed this grassy meadow, I was certain I spied two white horses, grazing in the relative distance.  What a lovely sight! Returning along the same path hours later, I realized that it wasn’t two white horses grazing, it was two large white immobile boulders! If you’d have asked me, I would have sworn that I’d seen these two beautiful white horses.

horse4

As an observer and writer, I have an active imagination and can fill in the details around someone or something without having facts to substantiate what I conclude! 

Writing Prompt:
Here’s an opportunity for you to practice constructing a story based solely on what you see. Select a photo of a person in a magazine–National Geographic?–any magazine with great photos of people is desirable.

Tear out the photo or copy it so there are no distracting elements aside from the picture you are studying.  Using image detail, describe every aspect of the person in the photo. Clothing, expression, age, coloring, a “dissonant detail”, etc.  What are you assuming about this person based on the photo? Write that down also.  Make up a story based entirely on what you see.