Once upon a time

I had a story-full weekend, a drive up the highway with various NPR-based story shows, lunch and a walk with some storytelling friends, and attendance at my first story slam, and then watching the Oscars, which is, after all a celebration of the many ways to tell a great story.

The story slam was an amazing feel-good event as people eager for stories crammed into a bar on a gray Sunday early evening, clapping, laughing, cheering for the doughty tellers, who spoke of near-death accidents, triumphs over adversity, lucky breaks, sudden perceptions and changes in perspective, and the many ways in which we get by with a little help from our friends.

A well told story is a symphony of little pauses and great crescendos, of sotto voces and staccato lines, of discordance but ultimately resolution. And the listener is active. An entire bar of a standing-room-only crowd would be utterly still at times when a storyteller had us in his or her spell, and then explode in laughter or applause. It was magic. The best kind — not the spell that turns an Other into a toad, but the kind that enchants us all into dreamers in the same dream.

Although I’m not a storyteller myself, I do believe that it is in story that we are most human, most prone to empathy, the only connection that will move us forward as a species away from our tendency toward xenophobia and hostility and toward community in its broadest definition — you, whoever you are, and me.

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