The Dot and The Outsider

I read two distinctly different books this week that are the opposite ends of one spectrum. “The Outsider” by Albert Camus and “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds are, on the surface, completely unconnected, one being a short novel about a condemned man and the other a children’s story about creativity. For me, these two books hold a different gaze on the same subject, being different.

In “The Outsider”, the main character is unapologetically odd, which leads to his fate, being condemned by society. In “The Dot”, the main character is encouraged to create her original art, a dot, by a teacher, which leads to acclaim. On one end, being different is despised, on the other it is praised.

What these two books capture, in altogether contrasting mediums, is the influence of perspective in telling the story of our lives. In “The Dot”, a teacher’s praise of an early art attempt, leads the character to define herself as an artist and continue creating works of art. The teacher could have just as easily said the dot was ‘not art’ and the story would have reached a dismal conclusion. Not a typical move in a children’s book, granted. In “The Outsider”, the character is on trial, two portraits of his personality are presented to the jury. On one hand he could be an amoral, cold-blooded killer, on the other he could be a confused, weird man caught in a bad situation. The story that is believed is the one that seals his fate, but is it true?

A story can uplift, a story can kill. Words are powerful. Words are more than description of a fixed reality. Words and stories sculpt life itself. So, I wonder, what story are you telling about yourself? Is it the one you want to be true? This is the role of affirmations; they are specifically designed to counter unhelpful stories that we may have heard about ourselves. It takes a strong character to withstand a negative culture. Deliberately telling a different story about ourselves, as these two works show, can completely change our lives.

Tell a better story.

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