I love stories. I love to hear stories and I love to tell stories. Stories were a large part of my teaching style. Students thought I was just using up time but 95% of the time, the stories related to what we were studying. That’s the beauty of language and experience. So much of it is relatable.
“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” –Hopi American Indian proverb
I can identify with this quote from the Hopi culture. I’ve read numerous offerings of Native American literature: novels, plays, poetry, traditional legends. Not many tell a story better than Native Americans. On the surface it’s a tale of events and people, but below the surface its teeming with metaphor and life lessons. I used quite a few different pieces in conjunction with my teaching over the years and a Sherman Alexie novel, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, was taught in our ninth grade curriculum. It was a great opportunity to introduce the students to so many things they’d probably never known existed, including some of our local Iroquois culture.
“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” –Mary Catherine Bateson
I find this concept to be very true. We do think in metaphors, so many of them becoming phrases we use continually. Since you may have forgotten what a metaphor is: it’s a literary device used to make comparisons, often imaginative, between unlike things. For example: life is a highway, you have ants in your pants, love is a journey…you get the idea.
Metaphors may allow us to visualize. “He could hear Beatty’s voice. ‘Sit down, Montag. Watch. Delicately, like the petals of a flower. Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chainsmoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions and time-worn philosophies.’” —Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury Here we get a glimpse into the act of burning a book. light the first page and the second. It becomes a black butterfly. A thing of beauty you are using to destroy all of those hateful words and unfulfilled promises that literature offers.
Sometimes the concept is simple. “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” —Will Rogers
Another great idea about story telling comes from Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This particular quote speaks to me and, I’m sure, to many other writers. It’s like the premise of dying with your song still inside you. Though I’ve told thousands of stories over the years, there is still much more I need to say. Many of the stories I’ve told contain humor. Humor is a natural element of my personality. I love a good laugh, unless its at the expense of others. Laughing is good for the soul. But, please, don’t ever fall down in front of me. I will ask if you’re okay but then I will laugh like a hyena. It’s some weird release from within. Trust me, I’m a champion faller and I will not be upset of you laugh yourself silly. And yes, I have a few epic stories about falling.
It’s a hard line to draw between stories we tell and stories we’d like to tell. Those often remain in the mind and imagination of the teller. Maybe they aren’t appropriate, or are too personal. Roy Orbison sings about it in his song “In Dreams,”
“In dreams I walk with you
In dreams I talk to you
In dreams you’re mine all of the time
We’re together in dreams, in dreams…”
Our dreams seem to reveal our innermost thoughts and desires. To me, storytellers are also dreamers. Perhaps some dreams are not meant to be attainable but what’s the sense of dreaming if that’s what you believe?
Author Tim O’Brien tells the reader in The Things They Carried, “But this too is true: stories can save us.” Stories help to keep things alive in our memories and to cope with our losses. If we tell the stories, then the people and events are never lost. Think about it. I’m sure you have a story that fits the bill. Tell it to us.