Every culture around the globe has stories and they have been told for time immemorial. Stories are of many kinds, few purely for entertaining, many for the education of adults and children, and many, many to convey deep spiritual truth. Subtle ideas told in plain words come out dry, dull and pedantic. But they turn alive and acquire magic when cuddled in a story. That is why people of all ages like to hear stories. It is indeed a pleasant way of imbibing deep subtle truths.
The art of story telling was still alive and popular when I was growing up. We heard stories from family elders, relatives, neighbors, and teachers. Occasionally, itinerant professionals came to our village and everybody heard them spellbound. To this day I can see them in my mind’s eye and remember some of their stories.
Unfortunately, due to various reasons, the art of story telling is going out of fashion these days. Live story telling is becoming rare even in the homes. Electronic and printed media have overwhelmed us. Parents have virtually stopped reading or telling stories to their children. Both children and adults prefer to watch TV or read books.
Consequently we are even forgetting how properly to hear stories. Believe it or not there are rules for good story hearing. We cannot go into details but here are just two useful guidelines. It is useful to follow them when we do have an opportunity to hear stories.
1. Switch off your judging mind. Do not criticize. Animals may fly and talk. Humans may disappear for a thousand years and then return to their previous lives. Gods may appear in human or animal form and play a role in the story. Other fantastic scenes may unfold. Just let the story wash over you and enjoy it. The storyteller has the liberty to use the tools of his trade. You just listen and enjoy. For if you judge you lose the narrative and the message.
2. Stories are metaphors. Their meaning is behind the words and not in them. Do not be in a hurry to draw conclusions. The hidden message of the story will slowly crystallize.
Many of us make the mistake often of watching closely the finger of the storyteller in infinite detail. By doing this we learn a lot about the finger but miss watching the moon that the finger was pointing to.
September 10, 2008