I have long been fascinated by people with the wonderful ability to weave a tale. So I set out to explore the theory and practice ofÂ storytelling.Â This is a guest post by dog sled racer, Denver teaching fellow, and intrepid storyteller Sam Christman.
Enter Sam Christman
Stories and good storytelling have the power to make the ordinary extraordinary. They have the ability to reconstruct reality in a light that is more pleasing and adds a perspective that people find comforting, uplifting, and ultimately, truthful. Hell, who doesnâ€™t love a good story?
The art of storytelling dates back to our pre-Cambrian days, and in recent past itâ€™s taken an interesting turn. Most oral narrative in western culture was heavily influenced by the Brothers Grimm. These wayward brothers institutionalized the convention of offering an overtly stated moral in their stories, and that tradition continues largely today.
Where things get cool is the when the moral of a story becomes elusive. This leaves greater room for interpretation on the part of the audience, and some great modern examples include The Moth (popularized on NPR) and letâ€™s say The A&P by John Updike. In the The Moth, rambling narratives serve in large part as entertainment, but thereâ€™s a fine well of knowledge to be gained in their wanderings. Stories like The A&P offer a glimpse at a small but powerful moment in time that leave the protagonist and reader with a litany of things to stew on.
The more pious readers among us may start to feel the hair on the back of their neck rise. Now what a gosh darn minute, you say, this is starting to sound like lying. Well, maybe it is. I think embellishment as a means of building up other people is of the highest moral imperative, however, and if youâ€™re not comfortable lying for yourself, just lie first and then immediately recant. Youâ€™ll still get return on your investment, for example, you could say you caught a Mark McGwire homerun with your bare hand. When someone replies, â€œreally?!â€, you can say â€œNo, not reallyâ€. Theyâ€™ll still think youâ€™re cool.
Letâ€™s be positive for a moment though. The kicker, the real kicker of all this story telling stuff though is that this process of â€œgreatificationâ€, as I like to call it, works both ways. Not only is it possible to take ordinary events of the past and transform them into something more powerful and uplifting, but you can â€œstoryâ€ life into what you want it to be. Thereâ€™s no shortage of examples of people who laid something out on the proverbial paper and then lived it. Babe Ruthâ€™s epic point to left field is the first example that comes to mind. Now obviously beyond just pointing, he hit the ball, so fortunately for the rest of us more ordinary folk, we have the aforementioned power of embellishment to round things out.
Just like people want music in their earbuds to be the soundtrack of their lives, a good story is like casting a major Hollywood actor to play your part in a movie. So let the music play and be your own hero.
So how does this affect any of us? The point I would like to make is that whether momentous or minute, approaching not only our own lives but the lives of others with a storied filter makes life better. Winners not only write history, but they do so in a light that makes their actions seem great. Heroes get remembered; legends never die!