I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.- Robert Fulghum.
Our secret stories, operating in the depths of our psyches, are the true determinants of our lives. The most potent stories are not the public stories we tell about ourselves. The most potent stories are secret stories in our psyches, in our deeper selves. We have no obvious control over these stories. It is these secret stories, these underground, underworld stories that a nation tells itself, that an individual tells itself, in the night, while it sleeps. It is these stories that truly shape our lives. It is these stories which must be changed if destinies are to change.
Okri, Ben (2015-10-12). The Mystery Feast: Thoughts on Storytelling (p. 32). Clairview Books.
I have been thinking about story telling as of late. When I think of it I am going on 30 years of old stories expressed through movement and image that have been changing how I view my world, I find myself extremely humbled in the face of the giants that have walked before me. Oral traditions have used stories to convey multi-dimensional information that needs to move from one generation to the next for its own survival. It was not merely the story but how the teacher told the story, and then how the story began to recreate itself inside of the person listening. This way of transmitting information can not only transmit the ideas but can be a vehicle for information to gather that was under the surface , between the words, that moved the imagination in such a way that worlds opened days or years later in the practitioner.
This morning I was entering my art through one of the stories in from the Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Tradition. I was playing with a form called Lin Wan Kuen Translated as Continuous Hand Shaolin. It took me a few goes to knock the dust off. But then the story of playing this form started to come back to me. This is a form that helps support and nourish meditation, and meditation helps support and nourish this form. Within the story are clues to how to be aware of all of the moments that pass us by, how to communicate from your heart to the heart of the world more clearly, to help shape your thoughts more clearly, how to connect deeply to the earth, how to embrace, how to expand, how to feel your hands be expressive, how to blend with life. All of this is done with movement thought and imagination. You step into the movement and the story to become the hero’s journey. You surrender to the story and let it change you. Imagine that for a moment… Somebody somewhere in a Shaolin temple created not one but a library of books of knowledge, that included movement, imagery, that told a story that changed and nourished the player when sitting down to meditate. that changed the way thoughts unfolded during the day, that affected how the tool of perception engages the world. That enabled the person absorbed in the story to communicate, more clearly, his or her own story. A story that makes space within consciousness so life has a chance to breathe. Not only that but then people like us thought it was important enough that they preserve it and preserved the whole telling of the story.Make no mistake there are gifts from the past that exist today and are just a relevant if not more so to the preservation of the human spirit.
In this day and age we are bombarded by people telling us stories. What are the storytellers trying to manipulate? What is the agenda of the stories? I can tell you from my experience that many of the stories that are told are meant to manipulate us for political reasons especially right now! They are stories that fall flat in the face of stories that when engaged open worlds within us, open us up to the freedom of our humanity. Stories that unlock parts of ourselves forgotten to explore this amazing body/mind we inhabit and connect us to something greater than ourselves.
In many ways, we are in the new Dark Ages, we have more access to information than at any time in civilizations history. Stories of medicine, stories of celebrities,stories of politicians, stories of hate, stories of love, stories of products that you just can’t live without among many others. Things that are nourishing for humanity get buried in a morass of information. While toxic images that encourage us to be people we are not, to buy things we don’t need, or imprison us in self-delusion and addiction float to the top. When all things become equal nothing seems important, nothing has any of the human weight that expands and nourishes humanity. The way through is to learn to hone your listening for what is toxic to the human spirit and what is nourishing. This is no easy task, though it would help if we all became more centered.
To Quote Ben Okri again:
As the world gets more confused, storytellers should become more centered. What we need in our age are not more specialists, experts, spin-doctors. What we need are people deeply rooted in the traditions of their art, but who are also at ease in the contemporary world. We need storytellers who weave their tales with far-seeing eyes, and multi-dimensional hearts. We need storytellers who know something. Not those who dabble, who turn out words merely for pay or for fame. Storytellers are the singing conscience of the land, the unacknowledged guides. – Ben Okri