Germanic and folklore specialist, Maria Tatar, says that when we begin telling a story, the story itself indicates that we have left normal time.
Leaving normal time is often looked down upon as daydreaming, as inattention to what really matters, as a waste of time because it isn’t practical. Why would anyone value leaving normal time?
I recently spent 4 days offering a Summer Institute for several students and faculty of Cherry Hill Seminary. Our focus was on the power of story to transform us. What happened in between sessions was equally if not more significant: we spent hours telling each other our stories. We told stories of work, of love, of loss, of abuse, of healing, of mystery, of struggle and triumph. We laughed and cried and pondered together. I have surmised for many years now that human beings only tell those stories that embody meaning for them. That means that all the stories that we tell are sacred. They take us out of normal time–even when they are about something that happened to us in normal time–so that we can really see, really hear, really understand. In other words, storytelling allows us to leave normal time in order to weave our wisdoms. When we return from storytelling to normal time, we bring with us our particular wisdom.
American journalist, Chris Hedges, in his article “The Power of Imagination” has offered these sobering words: ” . . . there will have to be a recovery of reverence for the sacred, the bedrock of premodern society, so we can see each other and the earth not as objects to exploit but as living beings to be revered and protected.”
Storytelling takes us into the sacred. The sacred allows us to see. Authentic seeing is salvation, for humanity and for this planet.
I want to suggest this: every time we put off an opportunity for storytelling, we put off our chance to see, hear, feel and understand more clearly. Likewise, everytime we take that opportunity, we are cultivating the wisdom that our age so desperately needs. The next time you find yourself on the verge of a heady argument with someone, ask them to tell you a story about their concerns. After listening intently, offer to tell your story. Stall the arguments and tell stories.