A Life Unedited

This was the original name for my post several days ago, when I discussed Socrates’ aphorism, “An unexamined life is a life not worth living, for a human being”. [1] I was thinking of the process of examining my own life, which seems to be a never-ending process. So, would Socrates be proud, or relegate me to the loony bins extant in ancient Greece?  In yesterday’s post, I took umbrage at the idea that my autistic brother’s life would not be included in the category of a life worth living. This was actually the case in the early part of the 20th century in the United States, and in the era of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. I do not see how, in any system of ethics, any human being has a right to describe the criteria for improving the human species, as was the mission eugenics. [2]

Life is a narrative

If I had the audacity to edit Socrates’ quotation to include my own particular beliefs, it would look like this: “An un-narrated life is a life lost.”


I just started reading On Writing –A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. [3] I found a real gem in the Third Forward: “…to write is human, to edit is divine…” How does one make sense of the narrative of one’s life, while living it? When young, the narrative becomes speculative fiction, as everything lies in the future. Young people either make it up as they go along or craft their lives around role models. When older, stringing prior experiences together may result in an “aha” moment if a proper unifying theme is discovered: “Oh, so that’s what my life is about!”

Most recollections from my childhood are clear. I am aware of several themes that consistently run from scene to scene, but I am fearful of leaving something important out of my narrative when I edit.  Blaise Pascal famously said, “I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” [4] I cannot claim lack of time to edit my life’s narrative. I am cataloguing memory after memory after memory, nit picking for details that may be irrelevant. I’ve had plenty of time to shorten my narrative into a crisp, understandable story. But editing means making decisions to cut. What if I decide incorrectly?

I suppose that the edits on the cutting room floor can be swept up and saved for another memoir. A life doesn’t have to conform to one theme and one theme only.

What about the silent ones?

Those unable to speak have a locked-in narrative that no one knows. For those who can’t create their own narrative, it is the duty of the rest of us to divine for it, as a dowser divines for water, bringing all editing powers to bear.

One thought on “A Life Unedited

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Gain Well Being From Your Life Story | Working Self

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