I recall three separate stories told to me at school when I was a very young Finn.
( Whack the Duck )
The next two stories were told to me a couple of years later and were delivered to me by an excellent teacher, the headmaster of my Middle School. He had a real knack for story telling in ways that always made you think in new ways, and has shaped my own perceptions in ways that have never left me.
I had the pleasure of meeting him again a year or so ago at an open day at the school when it was due to be demolished (and relocated to another site, they weren't razing it to the ground and sewing the land with salt or anything) and I was amused and pleased to note that several former pupils were taking the time to greet him and all said the same thing - they remembered his stories above everything else. A good teacher can have such an effect on a life, they are worth their weight in gold.
( Soldier, Scientist, Sausages )
Forgive the politically incorrect language in this next extract. It was the way the story was told and the intention was not to be offensive to any race, it was simply the terminology of schoolchildren. And it was not a story as such, but rather a puzzle in story form delivered during one Friday assembly.
( Cowboys and Indians )
(the title of which is another example of what it is describing)
I’m notoriously bad at expressing my feelings. Partly that’s typical English reserve I think, and partly the disconnected/depressive state I seem to be working through at the moment. Those of you who’ve had the dubious privilege of chatting to me online or meeting me in the skin will know that I just don’t deal well with self-revelation or discussing how I feel.
Oh, opinions I’ve got by the bucketload. I’ll happily scoop out a few opinions if you want them, on any subject you care to name. Obscure knowledge, yep, help yourself, two pence a bag (bring your own bag though). But feelings? Good grief is that the time? And look over there, butterflies. *Runs off while the interrogator is distracted* And I can usually cover up well enough that taking a guess at how I’m feeling is a fruitless exercise. Like trying to do a crossword puzzle in a dark room with no clues, no pen, no knowledge of the language it’s in and no actual grid. I don’t mean to be difficult, it’s just how I’ve ended up and I apologise for driving people crazy from time to time.
However… poetry seems to be an outlet. Prose too, to a lesser extent. Most of my prose has parts of me hidden away more or less beneath the surface, and I do tend to write about the things that touch me (through a fictionalised lens of course). Mainly poetry though - it’s almost as though the traditionally emotional nature of poetry, because it *demands* an emotional input gives me the permission to gush forth with all manner of inner-life. I suppose it’s because the form allows that amount of (what seems to me to be) showing off about personal things. Perhaps my inner censor has been pacified by the conception that if anyone actually mentions it I can say ‘oh it’s just poetry, don’t you know, that’s what poems are like. About me? Good grief no. Oh look, butterflies!”
For me at least, and I think for more people than care to admit it, stories are a potent force.
Understand the stories that people tell themselves about themselves and you will know that person almost completely. Understand the stories that people tell themselves about their society and will will know that culture. And with only a few unhealthy exceptions, no one is the villain in their own story. At worst they are a misunderstood hero forced to make unfortunate choices. Others may tell that story differently of course.
Learn a person’s story - the symbols that have power for them, the themes and motifs that inspire them - and you have the key to that person’s soul. You’ll have an insight into their motivations, their emotions, their decision making process, their self-image, their likely actions. Find a way to write yourself into that story.. and you own them.
It’s a scary thought, terrifying, especially for someone who pushes out so many of his own stories into the (semi) public domain of the Internet. Here I am, pay a penny and see what you can see. No refunds.
We’re none of us Homo Sapiens sapiens you see, no matter what the arrogance of classification tells us. Not wise (or even double-wise) except by the most optimistic definition of the term, and homo is simply elitism, attaching a new label to our species because we like to think of ourselves as separate.. though we are close enough to the higher primates that an objective observer would classify us with them. Pan Narrans edulis is nearer the mark. Mr Pratchett coined the first two thirds of that - we’re not the Wise Man we are the Storytelling Chimp. Edulis simply means edible and I defy anyone to contradict that after an hour or two with an angry tiger, or one of Dr Lecter’s proteges. That’s what raises us above the other apes you see- we tell better stories of our past, our position and our potential future.
I need a banana.