Stories R Us
God, in his wisdom, has created millions and billions of people, but the expectations of those people are far from satisfied. They say, “Now we want to create people of our own.” So as the gods played with their living dolls, people began to play with their own dolls, dolls they had created themselves.
~ Rabindranath Tagore in his book He (Shey)
Stories are the cradle of mankind. They are the amniotic fluid of the birth of everything new that our world creates. The connecting threads snaking through centuries of generations and civilizations. Storytelling is perhaps one of the first Arts to have been practiced by Man. From sounds and gestures, to carvings and music. From parchment and paintings, to radio and photographs. The whole gambit has been majorly fueled by our innate urge, bordering on desperation, to share what we know and to leave behind a part of us.
Little surprise then that most of man’s path breaking inventions, discoveries and technological shifts have been related to sharing stories. Which has not ceased even after the youtubes, idiot boxes and twitter has touched every corner of the world. Some of our greatest spiritual leaders have been our best storytellers. And never will this subside cause after all,
There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
Without stories, how will the greater questions be asked or our fears and joys become common? A lot of grandmothers will be out of business. Our flights of fantasy and our visual imagery will decay. How else will we deal with the discomfort of dealing with the unknown?
Stories feed into our collective unconscious where all that we all know is hoarded; and then they travel into the personal unconscious which in turn is the puppeteer for our conscious thoughts and actions. Imagine a vast volume of water contained in a tank (ocean) which collects stories through the rain and then through its innumerable pipelines, rivers and springs, spreads those stories across the terra firma of Man.
In our quest of storytelling, we have lost something - not our need, but our talent, our faculty for the same. We bombard each other with too much, at all times. And during this onslaught, the art of storytelling has suffered; the ocean is impoverished.
“Listening to stories and telling them helped our ancestors to live humanly — to be human. But somewhere along the way our ability to tell (and to listen to) stories was lost. As life speeded up, as the possibility of both communication and annihilation became ever more instantaneous, people came to have less tolerance for that which comes only over time. The demand for perfection and the craving for ever more control over a world that paradoxically seemed ever more out of control eventually bred impatience with story. As time went by, the art of storytelling fell by the wayside, and those who went before us gradually lost part of what had been the human heritage— the ability to ask the most basic questions, the spiritual questions.”
Stories are our grandest attempt at immortality. Are we giving up?