The Power of Anecdote

I could tell you 11 truths about the human experience. 

And the only thing I could back any of them up with is anecdote. 

I have no hard numbers on the unconquerable joy of feeling spring light on your cheeks after a long winter. I have no data on that ennobling rush we get when we risk speaking our truth. 

What I have for you are anecdotes. And anecdotes are so easily overlooked. 

All I can point to is anecdotal, we say, meaning it doesn't really count. Anecdotes, it seems, are weak, unreliable things compared to sturdy, true numbers that come out of labs and hard data that comes out of scientific experiments. 

But on a human level, all we are are anecdotes. I've never heard someone say a eulogy was especially poignant because of all the hard data in it: In his 86 years, Stan had 7 jobs, 3 lawnmowers, 6 speeding tickets, and 1 large cat named Frank. Thank you and good night. 

The best eulogies are soaked in anecdote - how Stan sang Patsy Cline to his son before bed, tipped 30% to bad waiters because he figured they were having a rough day, and never found a game of pinochle he could say no to. 

My father tells me anecdote comes from the French meaning "unpublished." An anecdote, he says, is not a lesser form of knowledge. It's a different form of knowledge, more intimate and personal. And, I'd add, more human. 

We are not stocks or bar graphs. We are untidy, contradictory, story-filled humans. So if all we have are anecdotes, wonderful. Honor them. They are full of worth and meaning and the truth of what it means to be human at this moment in time. 

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