Nourished by Story

Excerpts from “The Nourishment Business,” by children’s author John R. Erickson


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My mother, Anna Beth Erickson, was an excellent cook . . . . She regarded cooking as more than drudgery and more than a process of blending ingredients and spices into palatable concoctions. In her view, there was no job more important than monitoring the source of her family’s food supply and tending to its preparation.

She also recognized that there was a spiritual dimension to eating. We took our evening meals together as a family. For that one hour, we became more than individuals racing off to meetings and school events. We were the Erickson family. We said grace together, ate in a mannerly fashion, and talked.

Mother was a nutritionist, a student of the science of wellness and wellbeing—the chemistry of Life. She understood that what we eat, and how we eat, contributes substantially to who we are, both physically and spiritually.

I often compare what I do with what my mother did. There is a spiritual dimension to storytelling that equates to the chemistry of food preparation. A good story satisfies the appetite for entertainment, but it can also reveal truth, structure, justice, humor, and beauty, and when that occurs, a writer has the opportunity to make readers better than they were before.

People need good stories just as they need wholesome food and clean water. Stories that enumerate chaos and absurdity leave us weaker and diminished. Those that reveal beauty and meaning in human experience nourish the soul.

We who were given the talent to write (or compose music or make movies) should use our gifts to strengthen the people who use our products. Like humble cooks, we’re in the nourishment business, and that changes the focus of art from Me to Us.

“Us” is who we are as a people, the human family. In this country we share a core of traditions and beliefs that we call “civilization.” For at least 3,000 years, philosophers, prophets, and preachers have told us we should preserve it, protect it, and pass it down to the next generation.

The Founders of our nation accepted this as common sense. So did Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Luther, Bach, and C. S. Lewis. It used to be taught in great universities, and I hope it still is.

Are we making our readers stronger or weaker, better or worse? That’s a question that anyone in the nourishment business should be asking every day.

*Posted July 23, 2016 at https://world.wng.org/2016/07/the_nourishment_business