Happy Chinese New Year! If last year was pretty intense for you as it was for me, there is good news. According to Chinese astrology this year SHOULD be calmer! My friend Jacquelina sent this to me, the best explanation of the Year of the Sheep or Goat that I have come across. So have some fun and read this article by Karen Abler-Carrasco.
This reposted blog relates to my story ‘Shelley and Rustle’ from ‘The Story Tree’ CD, in which ‘Shelley’ a Leatherback turtle, eats ‘Rustle’ the plastic bag Rustle. The story tells of this misadventure and what happens next.
The post below was written by 9 year old Kailani who lives with her family on K’gari or Fraser Island. I just connected with her passionately nature-loving family after they ordered my CD’s ‘The Story Tree’ and ‘Reaching for the Moon’. Inspired by her mother Bianca’s blog, Kailani, started one of her own ‘Kailani’s Island Life’! Pretty impressive!
Kailani’s mum Bianca wrote this about their response to that story: ‘Kailani, Iluka and I have been delighting in the beautiful stories and songs of Jenni Cargill-Strong recently – they are truly wonderful. The messages in these stories seem to embrace so much of what we value and the vision we have for our world. This story about a plastic bag is fabulous and fits perfectly with the Take 3 for the Sea project we did and our campaign to encourage businesses to become plastic bag free. Listen here.’
Be inspired by Kailani’s passion for the environment.
This final “Take 3 for the Sea” post is about how much rubbish we actually collected, if you like numbers you will like this post
After just 9 days of collecting rubbish this is what we found!
Where did it all come from?
A lot of people think the rubbish has washed up from Asia or dropped here on K’gari. Yes most of it is washed up but from Sydney and Brisbane not Asia. There is a current called the northern inshore drift which starts around Sydney and pushes north.
Some of the rubbish is also dropped here like beer bottles, cans, plastic bags and food wrappers. 4 left foot thongs were also dropped here and left behind, ha ha
What I learnt from the project.
- I learnt that the little pieces of rubbish are as dangerous as the big pieces maybe even more dangerous.
- I also learnt that we need to care for our planet because its the only one we have to live on forever
I have made this little video to share with you all.
- I have written to the local Mayor to ask about Hervey Bay becoming a plastic bag free town, we have already had people tell us they will write a letter as well. You can write to your local Mayor and ask if your town will become plastic bag free and tell others to do the same, every little bit helps.
- You can also reduce your consumption, especially at this time of year when people feel like they have to get their friends and family presents.
- Pick up rubbish when you see it and remember together we can make a difference
Facts about our collection:
- 421 pieces of rubbish could be easily identified and I estimated that we collected about 500 more pieces than that.
- 33 of the pieces we collected could be easily recycled. That’s less than 10%!
- Iluka and I are reusing 58 pieces in our games. That close to 15%
- We collected 20 plastic bags and 88 pieces of plastic wrapping. That’s 108 pieces of plastic in total!!!! This is the type of stuff that makes turtles sick
- We have also collected 68 pieces of plastic rope and 85 pieces of polystyrene!!! That’s a lot.
- We have collected close 1000 thousand pieces of rubbish!!!!
So You Want to Be a Storyteller?
Really? Even if people won’t want to date you ever again for fear that you’ll one day talk about them on stage? You’re sure?
Okay. Welcome aboard.
Here’s a cheap glass of wine. Where we’re going, you’ll need it.
I’ve got to tell you – I think you’ve picked a great time to get into the story game. I mean, with the success of storytelling podcasts like The Moth, RISK!, Definitely Not the Opera, Snap Judgement and This American Life millions of people are now aware of the phenomenon of modern storytelling. Just about every city in North America now has a regular storytelling event, and there seems to be more opportunities for storytellers than ever before. For raconteurs like us, the getting has never been good-er.
But before you start speaking your heart into the crackly microphone at the local roti place’s storytelling event (at which no one is there to actually hear stories [they’re just there for the roti]), there’s a few things we need to talk about.
Firstly: Storytelling is magic. It is capable of changing people’s lives in a way that few other forms of expression can. A well-told story will make a room laugh as one, cry as one, breathe as one. It can bring people together in a way that almost nothing else can. It is truly a special thing.
Alternately, storytelling is also capable of being the *@#!~* !! worst.
Being held captive by a terrible, meandering, long-winded, self-indulgent piece of shit story is worse than anything imaginable. When a bad storyteller is at the mic spinning their self-satisfied yarn, weaving in and out of tangents that lead nowhere, there is nothing more painful to sit through. Your blood pressure rises. Your eyes roll so far back they might never come back. You’re stuck in your seat helplessly longing for a happier time – like the time you were on hold with your cellphone provider and a knife hit you in the eyeball. You’re a hostage! You’re THIS GUY!
And unfortunately, pretty much every storytelling event will have at least one hostage-taking situation a night (if we’re lucky), and I don’t want you to ever be the one at the microphone when it happens.
That’s why I’m here to help.
When you tell a story onstage at your next live event, I want you to crush it. And if you let this advice sink in, I promise that you will.
1) If you’re running long, you’d better be KILLING, buddy.
Thing I’ve never thought after a story: “I wish that story went longer“
All storytelling events have time limits. Most are 10 minutes. And I’m telling you, if you’re going to be a storyteller, keeping your stories within the time limit is the single most important thing you can do when you are starting out. Because it will make the producers trust you and like you and want to invite you back. Not only that, but learning how to make the required cuts will make you a better writer, it will make the audience more comfortable and your story will be WAY stronger. Trust me. The worst stories are ALWAYS the longest. ALWAYS. Because who tells a story that goes way over the time-limit? Someone who doesn’t think our time is valuable. Time it. TIME IT. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TIME IT. I would rather sit through a 10-minute piece of shit than listen to a middling story that runs 5 minutes over the limit. Because the 10-minute story had more respect for its audience.
You don’t need to write out the whole story, but you do need to have a road map. Some of my favourite storytellers like Martin Dockery and Peter Aguero don’t write down their stories at all because they are freaks of nature. BUT! That doesn’t mean that they don’t know exactly where they’re taking us. Know your structure. Know where and why and for how long you’re taking us. Basic story structure is a beautiful thing.
- SET THE SCENE
- INCITE INCIDENT
- RAISE THE STAKES
Know exactly what your story is about. Then, get your Michelangelo on, and chisel away everything that isn’t David.
3) Punch it up.
There’s always a more unique and interesting way of saying things.
How happy were you that week?
“When I walked down the street that week, my gait looked like end-zone dance.”
How did you feel when you told her that you loved her for the first time?
“Vulnerable. Like I was bungee-jumping naked over shark-infested waters while being broadcast live on TMZ.”
Find a way of saying things that no other human except you would come up with. Be a snowflake who marches to the beat of your own synth.
4) That opening sentence or two is crucial.
Get us! Grab us! Right now! As soon as possible – and by whatever means necessary. Whether by using a joke or a cryptic hint or a surprise or by simply taking us to the opening scene as quickly as possible. Have an opening line that makes us put down our phones and lean in.
“It was one of those breakups where all of your stuff ends up in trash bags and you have 5 minutes to find a new apartment and once you do, the last thing you want to do is unpack those trash bags because they contain a lot of raw emotion.”
5) Oh, there’s a moral? Yeah. We know.
I’ve seen so many storytellers totally stick the landing on the climax, but then instead of winking at the judges and walking away triumphantly, they will inexplicably start ham-fisting their way through the moral(s) of the story. Dude! You were so close!
Tying a nice bow to the end of the story can sometimes be the exact right thing to do. But if you do, just keep it clean, concise, and make sure you’re giving us something that we haven’t already deduced on our own.
- Storytelling audiences are the smartest. They get it.
- Different people will take different things away from your story – and that’s okay. Don’t tell them what to take away because all stories are about multiple things.
Remember at the end of Full House when Uncle Jesse and Uncle Joey would sit next to Michelle on the bed as the cheesy music swelled and they’d teach her about all the life lessons she’d learned from the episode we just watched? Don’t do that.
Just give Kimmy Gibbler one last zinger and hit the music.
6) Don’t get hung up on the theme.
Lots of storytelling events have a monthly theme. I always love reading what the upcoming themes are because very often a theme will dislodge a long-forgotten story from the back of my brain. “Oh yeah. I DO have a story about GARBAGE.“
The unfortunate side-effect of themed events is that lots of storytellers feel the need to explain to us in excruciating detail why their story is appropriate for the theme. Or they’ll tell us the story of how they decided which story to tell us, “When I first heard that the theme this week was Freedom, I thought of blank, blank and blank.” JUST TELL US THE STORY!
The theme will be a dot and your story will be a dot and then we’ll connect them with our minds.
7) Sometimes it’s too soon.
I’m guilty of making this mistake before. All of my favourite stories are always ones of pain and finding the light in life’s darker moments. Sometimes as a storyteller, we’ll be going through something very challenging and will want to take it to the stage – like losing a loved one or having our heart broken or surviving a trauma. If you’re taking it to the stage, though, remember: It’s very difficult to paint a picture of a whale when you’re still trapped in its belly. Make sure you’re in a solid emotional place and you’re recollecting from a safe distance if you’re talking about the tough stuff. A good rule:
If you’re not ready to laugh about it, then we’re not ready to be sad about it.
8) Keep it fresh.
One of the biggest challenges of being a storyteller or comedian is that you have to take this thing that you’ve obsessed over, written down, rehearsed, outlined, said hundreds of times and then make it seem spontaneous and off-the-cuff every night. One trick that I find helpful when I’m running a story alone or with a friend is that I’ll challenge myself to tell the same story using slightly different language each time. Sprinkle in a few moments where you have to grasp for the words. Have a different way of describing the smell of the car every time. Set some booby traps for yourself along the way so that you’re forced to think on your feet in the present moment.
Sometimes when I’m trying to find the 20th new way to describe the smell of the car, is when I’ll find the perfect one and keep it.
9) “Look ‘em in the eye and speak from the heart.” -Louis CK
Storytelling has one gimmick: Heart. Use yours.
Be vulnerable with us.
10) Become a story aficionado.
Thousands of the best stories you’ve ever heard in your life are available. FOR FREE. RIGHT NOW. The Moth storytelling archives arestaggeringly good. Listen to: This American Life, DNTO, RISK! and Snap Judgement. They’re all free. FREE! Listen to as many as you can. Listen to brilliant storytellers like Mike Birbiglia and Tig Notaro and Elna Baker and Adam Wade. Dismantle their stories. Why was this one so effective, and this one not so much?
Become a student of the game.
11) Pet peeves and things to avoid.
My friend Peter Aguero has hosted his fair share of story events in New York and has probably heard more live stories than anyone I know. So I asked him for some of the things that irk him as a listener. Here’s what he said:
I don’t like when someone strings together a series of representative anecdotes to make a point in trying to tell their whole life story in 10 minutes. Everything ends up on the surface and there’s no detail. They end up nottelling us ten stories instead of telling one.
I cringe at the phrase “…and in that moment, I realized…” – I don’t know why, I just hate it.
I don’t like when people say, “if you’re not familiar with (whatever), it’s (explanation). Just explain it or don’t. Asking rhetorical questions reminds the listener that they’re listening to a story. It takes me out of it. You were going to explain it anyway, just explain the thing
To add to Peter’s list, here are a few of my own:
Defining words in a reading-from-the-dictionary-type fashion makes us feel like we’re at a commencement address or like the bride’s childhood best friend is at the mic. Steer clear.
Soapboxing is the worst. We’re here for stories, not to hear you plagiarize a conspiracy theory website.
The microphone is your friend. Talk into it. If your voice sounds loud, that’s good – it means it’s working.
Know how to ride a laugh. Let the whole laugh happen before you continue. You’re doing great.
Never start by saying “My story is…” or end with “That’s my story”.
12) Some tips from the PROS.
I asked a few of my most accomplished story buds for wisdom that they’d like to pass on to storytellers who are just starting out. Here’s what they said:
Kevin Allison; Creator/Host of RISK! Podcast
Zero in on an especially emotional moment you had and begin to reconstruct what you recall seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling.
TJ Dawe; Legendary Canadian Monologuist
Make your story specific. You might want to make it general, so that people will relate to it. Strangely enough, the more grounded it is in the specifics of your life, the more universal it will become.Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Your weaknesses, your failures, your sillinesses, your anxieties, your contradictions, your self-sabotage – this is the stuff of good stories.If your natural conversational rhythm is fast, pauses are your friend. And vice versa.
Be willing to cut a good line, or a good paragraph, or a good story altogether, if it isn’t working, or if it doesn’t add to the whole. The fact that you wrote it, and that it was hard to write isn’t justification enough to keep something. You’re not in this to avoid work.Watch and listen to the audience. You’ll learn from every audience. Their laughter will cue you. Their silence in dramatic parts will cue you. Their restlessness and inattention will cue you. A good solo performance isn’t a monologue, it’s a conversation with the audience.Notice which incidents in your life you keep thinking about, or telling friends about. There’s probably something there that reflects what you’re going through now.Use contractions when you write. Don’t dress up your sentences in Sunday clothes. Talk the way you normally talk.Have a specific person in mind when you create. Develop your material with that one person in mind. It could be a friend. It could be your partner. It could be someone you wish was your partner. It could be one of your parents. It could be you. It could be a younger version of you who might have needed to hear this. People can be fabulously expressive in an email, because they know exactly who they’re talking to, and they calibrate their vocabulary and sense of humour and references to that person. And they often become vague and general and clunky when trying to write something for an audience of everyone in the world.
James Gangl; Canadian Comedy Award-Winner; Moth StorySLAM Champion
Write as if no one will ever read your work. When I write like this, I stop worrying about my work being good or bad; I just write. I go for quantity over quality. I like to write fast, write forward and I don’t look back until my first draft is done. Quality will come in the edit.
Write stuff that you plan on burning later. When I hit upon a subject that scares the shit out of me, then I know I have something worthy of writing. Write stuff that scares you… that’s where the gold lies.
Tell the story as if you’re speaking to your friend in a bar. No pretention. No gimmicks. The simplest way from point A to B will become the bones of your piece. The rest is just window dressing and if you have a good enough story it will support all kinds of fun dressing.
Martin Dockery; Award-winning monologuist, Moth Mainstage Performer
Just to get up on stage and do it. And do it as often as possible. It’s the only way to get a sense of how to tell a story, how to find your authentic voice, how to judge pace, timing, and impact. Every single time I’m on stage I learn something, even now, more than a decade into doing it.
And that’s it. That’s pretty much all the wisdom I (and my story buds) can think of.
And y’know what?
You’re going to be great.
Lucky for us, storytelling audiences are the warmest, kindest, best-est audiences of them all. They came to listen. To you. You don’t have to fight to get them or win them over or trick them into listening to you. They’re already on your side as soon as you walk up to the microphone. You have their undivided attention.
Don’t waste it.
Read Sam S. Mullen’s article here.
Do you need ideas for a last minute, low stuff, low impact Christmas? This is not meant to be stress inducing. As we transition not all our choices may be 100% green but with some awareness we can still minimize our Xmas impact! It is a bit late but there are many things you can buy online to speed things up. TODAY is the latest day to order from me safely to get in the post in time for Xmas. Here are some ideas and links. (Scroll down for Story Tree giveaway: colouring in page to download and a sweet and quirky nature loving Xmas story.)
LAST MINUTE ETHICAL, GREEN IDEAS
If like me, you have been so busy with work that your Xmas shopping got behind and you’d rather not go hunting the shops for junk no-one really needs or wants, here are some last minute ideas.
Buy digital downloads- you can email them tracks or print details and put into a card for the day. Story Tree downloads are here.
Buy idevice audiobook subscription Does your family love stories and also use idevices- ie ipod, ipad, iphone? Here is an idea to boost literacy and enjoyment for whole family with a free trial to test it out first. StoryTree tales are on there. Search catalogue for Jenni Cargill-Strong here.
Buy experiences, not things: eg tickets to a concert, buy a gift certificate for a massage or workshop voucher from a local OR check out Red Balloon. Hand them a voucher on Xmas day.
General Ethical Buying Principles
Buy local: reduces carbon footprint from transport and supports local economy, driving the ‘multiplier effect’- the more money you spend locally, the more jobs you create locally, so the more the money there is in the economy which if spent locally creates more jobs and income etc).
Buy from artisans, independent artists and small businesses: with multinational corporations responsible for huge impacts on the planet and society, spread the love to smaller businesses.
Buy fair trade goods: avoid made in China where workers conditions poor and carbon footprint very high.
Buy long lasting, quality goods: Ask yourself how long will this last? Will it biodegrade?
Buy local and/or organic food and minimise food waste by catering conservatively, rather than extravagantly
Buy recycled stuff
Use recyclable wrapping: eg fabric
OR Buy NOTHING: the most radical of all!
As my US environmental storytelling colleague Fran Stallings likes to say, “There is no ‘away’ to throw things to.” It will all end up in our overflowing landfills.
Story Tree CD’s: An environmentally friendly gift
You won’t be harming the environment by buying this album. All Story Tree album covers are printed in Australia, on recycled cardboard and printed with soy-based ink in a cover which uses no plastic or wrapping. The disc is the only plastic involved. This means the CD’s are very thin and extremely cheap to post, if you are looking for a quality present to send. If you buy digital downloads there will be no plastic involved and your download will last a lifetime also. CD BUNDLE: ANY 4 CD’s for the price of 3, STILL only $65, including FREE postage! Order by Tuesday 16 Dec 8pm to receive for Xmas. ORDER NOW
My favourite online sites:
Stories and songs from Australian teller Annie Bryant
Natures Child for babies and young kids
Planet Corroboree Aboriginal and local art, craft, books, clothes
Australian Ethical Xmas Shopping Guide
Great Article with ideas Help! I Don’t Want More Stuff for Christmas
Minimalist movement video Australia
1 Million Women- Australian organisation mobilizing against climate change.
Would like to download and print out a blank version of my Story Tree backdrop for your children to colour in? Follow this link to my Resources page and see it under heading “Colouring in Sheet”.
“The Fairy at the Top of the Xmas Tree”
If you haven’t gotten it from me yet, read and listen to this tale here. YOU could tell by your Christmas Tree this year. Locals can hear me tell it this Saturday at Byron Bay Library.
WHEN: Saturday, December 20 at 10:30am – 11:30am
A VERY happy Summer Solstice to my southern hemisphere readers and a very happy winter solstice to my northern hemisphere readers! May your holiday season be full of joy and peace!!
There are lots of story fruits here to enjoy- for story lovers young and old!
Our most popular offer is the CD Bundle Deal: $65 for 4 CD’s with FREE postage at the story shop page.
stories to download
storytree tales on iphone app tales2go
stories to listen to and watch
story tree colouring-in page
stories to read
stories radio via airwaves and online: Australian “The Heart of the Story” and US “The Apple Seed”
subscribe to newsletter here
storytree on FB
read about storytelling, Jenni and Salty Pete
story articles (scroll down)
Thanks to Illumina Christos for passing on this beautiful piece from my favourite poet, David Whyte on the positive aspects of hiding. A farming analogy for hiding is is a fallow period. In the ancient rotation farming method, you let a garden bed or field rest for a period before planting it out again. David makes the distinction between hiding as a constructive, regenerative process, as opposed to hiding as escapism or denial. In myths and folktales the wise mentor was often an old woman or man who dwelt in a cosy cottage alone within a deep forest- a little sheltered from everyday concerns of the world.
HIDING is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Even hiding the truth from ourselves can be a way to come to what we need in our own necessary time. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.
Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.
We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.
Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.
Excerpted from ‘HIDING’ From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte:
PHOTO © David Whyte
Hidden Boat: River Cong: County Mayo: Ireland.
I love the work of Dr Brene Brown! When I coach people to tell stories and or become more confident at giving presentations or speeches a huge percentage of what I need to do is work with inner gremlins that create negative ‘psychobabble’ as I like to call it. But Dr Browns work applies to everything in life. Right now as we need positive changemakers to be at their most powerful and effective, her message is enormously important. Let’s all shine as brightly as we can, being vulnerable all the way!
When your gremlins tell you to play small, listen to Dr Brene Brown!
You can also read the Huffington Post article below and watch the short Oprah clip here. Dr Brown has also done countless talk shows and you’ll find her all over the place. My favourites are her TED talks.
Brené Brown On The One Thing More Terrifying Than Being Vulnerable
Shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown says we all have a choice in life whether to put our true selves out there or hide behind our fears. While many people are afraid to be vulnerable, Brown explains in this clip from “Oprah’s Lifeclass” why the alternative is far worse.
In the video, Brown starts by reciting a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that she says changed her life and inspired the title of her book, Daring Greatly:
“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is in the arena. Whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly …”
The second thing she realized is that comments from “Twitter thugs” — people who never risk anything but criticize the people who do — don’t matter. “If you are not in the arena also getting your butt kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback,” Brown says.
The third thing culminates everything Brown has learned over the past 12 years of studying shame and vulnerability. “Vulnerability is not about winning, it’s not about losing — it’s about having the courage to show up and be seen,” she says. “It’s about willingness to say, ‘Look, I don’t have all the answers.'”
If you’re afraid to be vulnerable, Brown says you’re not the only one –- but there is something even more terrifying.
“I think being vulnerable feels dangerous, and I think it feels scary, and I think it is terrifying,” she says. “But I don’t think it’s as dangerous, scary, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives and wondering, what if I would have shown up?”
“That, to me, is what daring greatly is,” Brown says.
This is a response from Laura Simms to the situation unfolding in Ferguson, which is now reverberating through many parts of the US and the world. Laura is an award-winning storyteller, recording artist, teacher, writer and humanitarian based in New York City. She is also a founding member of the Healing Story Alliance. I am an avid fan of hers. Thanks to Laura for allowing me to repost this piece.
‘Listening to the radio in a taxi last evening about the pent up outrage and demonstrations in Ferguson, I wept. I wept for everyone. The taxi driver, whose erratic driving was frightening, pulled over. He was also effected by the news. I never asked what side he was on. We just sat for a moment. We paused. Then continued to a destination. We are ignoring the chance to apply the alchemy of deep justice, to apply a pause in reactions in order to see the bigger story that needs healing. That story is very old. To reveal it is stronger than judgement, punishment, or revenge. A judge, a jury, lawyers, all parties and public need help. A true judge might h
ave spoken about the consequences and the causes of the murder. Seen beyond what he assumed is the law to a larger law. he or she might have created a new kind of justice of human kindness so a community could begin to work on the mutual act of reconciliation and use this dreadful situation for the long repair. There is an opportunity to acknowledge the festering deep wound of inequality, brutality and mistrust that lives in all of us. The stakes are bigger than one man’s guilt or punishment.
I am reminded of telling a story, told to me by a great musician/storyteller from Zimbabwe, to a group of adults. Ephat Mujuru (years before) said to me after the tale that it was about the “origin of murder.” For a long time I ended the tale with that addendum. And then I stopped doing that. His listening to a story was different than my audiences, or mine. He listened into the conundrum of the interdependent pieces of the story. But for my listeners, my addendum didn’t provide a revelation it fed the fuel of interpreting the story through that filter of pointed out meaning erasing the actual experience that each person had. A great story functions not to bring us to a neat outcome or moral conclusion, but as an event that allows us to feel into and become all sides of the picture. A great story provokes us into deeper kindness and listening where we find ourselves in the story.
During a storytelling (years later when I told the story as an example of social action and narrative) the profound situation of the events came alive within each of us as the story was being told and imagined and felt. The silence of being in the whole reciprocity of the tale was palpable shared compassion. My intention was to invite a conversation following. One person, able only to react to the literal words of the text as a justification for rage against men, argued her rightness immediatly. She did not wait for my instruction to be fully heard. The conversation blocked. In a habit of upholding opinions, of being right, people took sides. It was vehement; ultimately futile. It was also the point of the exercise. We enacted the events of the story. It took a long time before I could add a spice to the arguement ( point out another point of view neither right nor wrong) and shift us back into a conversation. We began, reluctantly at first, in a process of seeing/hearing multiple points of view grown from different experiences and trainings and beliefs expressed in the events. We used the story as our mirror.
Pulling opinions off of soapbox reactivity can be as agonizing as pulling a bandaid off an open wound. But without fresh air and time, the wound does not heal from within. We managed to listen to each other. Our dialogue became stunning and hard. We had to agree to consider each person’s reflection. With space, and with listening, and with a certain personal discipline, each of us began to melt. Our differences and our listening became our common ground.’ (This is Part I of a blog to be posted at Laura’s blog The Illuminated Story)
Happy Halloween if you celebrate it! Here in Australia, Halloween is not universally embraced by adults, but most kids adore it! Modern Halloween morphed from the much richer and ancient European Samhain Autumn Festival or ‘Day of the Dead’. I must write a blog about that one day, however there are lots to be found with a quick web search on ‘Samhain traditions’. It was about honouring ancestors and the shadow, noticing that nature’s energy was quietening for the coming winter, not lollies and plastic masks! The following day the light was celebrated in what became “All Saints Day”.
Banksy ‘graffiti’ art has become an intriguing, thought-provoking meme with a wide emotional range: sometimes delightfully humourous and at other times, poignant, tragic and provocative. Banksy images have made a significant political contribution, and provoked heated discussion. I heard him discussed and interviewed in ABC Radio and the young male interviewer was positively aggressive and angry towards the man, seemingly beacuse his work now commands huge sums. People refer to the “Banksy effect”. I wondered whether he is an actual person, since ‘his’ work has appeared from Bristol to Israel to the US, or is he a shifting collective? Having read a little more now , perhaps he is just one person. I know nothing about art- I just find his work stimulating and poignant and though provoking and very much in tune with what many people are feeling. But here is the link to the folktale of ‘Tipingee’.
Captain Paul Watson, reposted this fake report about Banksy’s arrest from a spoof site on FaceBook with this humourous comment:
‘Hey that’s not Banksy, I’m Banksy! Actually we all should be Banksy and everyone needs to inform the London Metropolitan Police that they are in fact the real Banksy…’ Many people didn’t read the post properly and responded as if it were true and/or as if Paul had believed it. Others responded with, ‘No I’m Banksy!’, as did I in a FB conversation with friends.
This playful phenomenon of many people pretending to be Banksy, is what reminds me of the folktale ‘Tipingee’. It is a Haitian tale of collective resistance.
In the folktale, many little girls pretend to be Tipingee, to protect her from a nasty, powerful (and magical) old man who wants to steal her away to be his slave! (If only that just happened in folktales- the stealing little girls away I mean!!) Here is a heartening, playful retelling of Tipingee from master storyteller Diane Wolkstein in an American high school classroom.
Diane, sadly is no longer with us, but she was a world renowned storyteller and author. She brought the tale of Tipingee to the U.S. and the world by writing a book “The Magic Orange Tree” (1997) after living in Haiti for some time.
She was also author of the version of the first story I ever told, the Goddess myth of ‘Inanna and her Descent to the Underworld’.
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