Friday, March 11, 2016

ONCE UPON A TIME...The Art of Storytelling in a Desperate World

Although the mind may be part of your target, the heart is the bull's-eye. 

The streets of Paris were alive, breathing and crawling with life.  The cherry trees were in bloom, sending a shower of their perfume down on all those who walked by; had they always been so fragrant?  So pink?  Bicycles jingled their bells as they flew by, and voices called out greetings to one anther.  Even strangers would smile back as you passed.  People were looking up at each other instead of hiding in the drawn up collars of their coats, eyes lowered and straight ahead.  They looked at you and nodded as if to say, "You are here.  Good for you!  I'm glad to see you are still here..." (When the Bird Sings, 381)

Stories:  Whether they are told over a campfire, or at bedside; out loud or in a diary; to a large crowd or within the emptiness of a quiet chamber, they have the power to affect and even change us.  From the beginning of time, before we even had written language, stories were told through pictures on cave walls.  They matter.  They define us--immortalize us and our brief moment in the sun on history's timeline.  They paint beautiful pictures of places we dream to visit, and those we will always yearn for.  They speak to us across time and country-- no boundaries or borders.  They open all the senses whether they are heard or read, seen or spoken.  They remind us of something we cannot explain but know is true...

How do we define a story?  What is it about them that seems to draw us in, no matter what culture, race, religion or socioeconomic status we are from?  I think the great power of the story is that they connect us; they remind us that no matter where we have been, what we have experienced, or where we are going, there is a purpose of some sort--a message worth sharing--and, low and behold, others have walked through these struggles before.
So...what makes someone a great storyteller?  We know them when we meet them, don't we?  My friend Larry Frost, a special forces operative who fought in Vietnam can tell a compelling story.  I remember one night around our dinner table, he told us the story of an encounter he and his men had in the jungle with an 800 pound tiger that had us frozen, forks suspended, hanging on his every word.  He didn't have any musical theme in the background, or impressive graphics and visuals, it was just his voice and his words; they held us completely captive.  My grandfather was another one. He would sit in his big chair in the living room of his farmhouse in Tomah, Wisconsin, and tell us stories about growing up in the depression, watching the young soldiers run drills at Fort McCoy near his farm in preparation to be shipped off for Europe to fight in WW2, and what my mom was like as a young girl growing up in a much simpler time. their ability somewhat defined by my relationship to them?  Perhaps, but I actually think it may be something more.

Storytelling is an art--much like painting, writing, dancing and singing or playing an instrument is.  It communicates something that transcends the experience, itself.  It speaks to our mind, of course, as we fill in the blanks with our interpretation and fill in visuals to run like a movie in our mind, but I think the quote at the top hits the nail on the head:  the figurative heart of the human is the real target; whether fiction or non, for pleasure or curiosity, the story has to reach into more than just the synapses of logical reasoning and thought.

I came across this very interesting article from Harvard Business Review.  It would seem good storytelling also crosses the lines of study disciplines!  It is entitled, "The Four Truths of the Storyteller."  Read it carefully, then respond:

1.  What ARE the four truths?
2.  Who are your favorite storytellers, and what is it that makes them so special?

Then, make a snack, grab your favorite refreshing beverage, and watch this story teller share her story.  At The Moth, storytelling is like theater.  :)  Ask yourself this question and then post your answer:  WHAT makes this woman's performance compelling?  

Cannot wait to hear in YOUR stories....