The words of Ayzoh!
Given the complexity of the issues we are addressing, we feel the need to clarify some of the key concepts of Ayzoh! in order to leave no doubt about our worldview and the direction our work has taken since the organization’s inception.
Storytelling has always played a fundamental role in the transmission of knowledge and experience, so much so that it has taken on a central role in educating new generations about community values and social norms.
In the act of storytelling, we recognize an important function in reinforcing group identity and strengthening community relationships.
This is most evident in societies still based on orality, but it also continues to varying degrees in societies based on writing: through formal education, social and mass media, and artistic expression.
Today, some narratives respond more to political and market needs than to the education of values and norms useful to the community and the individual. We want to bring the act of storytelling back to the center of its original meaning as “constructing meaning in the world,” with the intention of rediscovering and recognizing in local narratives the breath of universality and the values that unite all human beings beyond the differences that divide us.
We want to bring back to the center the theme of “truth”, not as a unique and original version, but as a shared version, the result of exchange and dialogue: a version in which all recognize themselves and for which all feel responsible.
Storytelling, then, is an action that allows us to make connections between people, experiences, and knowledge, near and far, in space and time, with the goal of creating a shared meaning, expressing a plural identity, and envisioning a possible future, ideally based on beauty, respect, and mutual understanding.
We are aware of the complexity of the concept of identity: the misunderstandings and manipulations it has generated in different historical periods, especially since the advent of writing.
Without wishing to be naive, we therefore offer “identity” as open a meaning as possible, recognizing that it is based on polarities that sometimes seem irreconcilable: individual-collective, past-present, origin-vision of the future.
By the concept of identity, we mean to refer to the set of experiences that make us unique and offer awareness and authenticity. Far from the idea that authenticity is a copy of a past narrative that always remains the same, we believe that all identity – personal and collective – is built in encounters with others and is defined in terms of an ongoing search for one’s place in the world.
Authenticity, then, is the result of a process of transformation and self-exploration in relation to others, not of fixation on a past, fashion, or future model. In this sense, we understand authentic identity as based on narratives that are nurtured by relationships – a source of learning and growth – rather than by divisions, classifications, and hierarchies.
Finally, with regard to identity and culture, we would like to emphasize that the encounter always takes place between people and only later between cultures: they are not subjects acting on their own initiative, but objects experienced, interpreted and transmitted by human beings.
By the word “community” – a term that is much overused and often taken out of context – we mean aggregations of people who:
- recognize a common identity and feel that they belong to an entity greater than the individual;
- share the same values of responsibility for themselves, others, and nature;
- offer each other support, protection, listening, and help. They share gifts, talents, knowledge, and skills to grow personally and collectively and to enhance the quality of relationships;
- embrace individual differences as a value that enhances rather than hinders group unity and encourages the search for it at deeper levels of consciousness;
- cultivate a sense of openness and inclusiveness toward people, knowledge, and ways of being consistent with their own values;
- seek a balance between individual freedom and respect for the needs of others, between the personal and the group or relational dimensions.