The Power of Stories That Shape Us | Elaine Pagels + Dani Shapiro, Moderated by Elizabeth Lesser
Where: Rubin Museum of Art
150 W. 17th St.
212-620-5000 Price: Tickets $62 + choice of Book; Member Tickets $49.60 + choice of Book
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Stories have a profound impact on our identity—both the stories we receive from family and culture and the stories we create ourselves. With these narratives, we literally “make sense” of our lives.
Elaine Pagels is one of the most compelling religious thinkers at work today. In her new book, Why Religion? she tells the story about the death of her young son followed a year later by the shocking loss of her husband. Her personal story is the perennial human story—how each of us navigates the losses and challenges we face over a lifetime. Why Religion? is also an investigation into the religious traditions that for better and for worse have shaped our identity—gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, power—and how that identity shapes our lives.
Dani Shapiro, one of America’s most beloved authors and memoirists, was shaped by her Orthodox Jewish upbringing. In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, she received the stunning news that the father who raised her was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her. This is the story she tells in her new book, Inheritance.
During the evening we examine these questions:
- What is the power of stories to consciously and unconsciously shape us—family stories, cultural stories, religious stories?
- What about the power of our relationships and a sense of belonging to family, tribe, culture? What happens when connections are sundered? How does it change us?
- What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?