Saturday, February 28, 2009

On the Sacredness of Story

I believe in the power and magic of Story.

Story has the power to heal, to redeem, to entertain, to educate, to inspire -- and a whole lot of other things, but that is enough of a list for starters. There are millions of individual stories, in endless variations, on archetypal themes. Most of them are fundamentally sacred stories because they reveal certain truths about Life, and orient the hearer/reader toward The Holy.

Storytellers are shamans, clowns, teachers and preachers, to mention just a few of their roles. In their shamanic role, Storytellers make the myths that become gods (for good and for ill). They tell Stories that offer potential explanations for Mystery, quell fears and give hope. As clowns/jesters they entertain us, making us laugh when we are sad, and reminding us that we are not alone when we feel lost and afraid. Storytellers are humanity's guardians, guides and companions. They are mouthpieces of the gods. Occasionally, Storytellers become creators of gods, when they spin webs of sacred myth that resonate with certain human groups over long periods of time, ultimately becoming what we know as religions.

Story-making is an act of Creation
ex nihilo, like what happens in the first Chapter of Genesis: God said the words, and Creation happened. Even more on point, in John 1, the Messiah of God is the Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In my experience, we don't actually "create" Story. Story emerges from the mists of our subconscious, like the dry land of Genesis emerges from the waters of chaos.  Stories, like Creation, exist as potential in the heart of their creators.  They emerge when the creator loves them enough to let them go and take on a life of their own.  How many Stories are locked forever in the souls of people who don't know they are there or who know the Stories are there but fear to let them go?

For those of us who are blessed/cursed to have been called to be Storytellers, sharing Story is as natural and as vital as breathing. For nearly everyone else, whether they are aware of it or not, receiving Story is also a Life-enhancing, and, therefore, sacred act.

I no longer know if I believe in a personal God of the kind revealed in the Bible. Sometimes I do. Most of the times I don't, but wish I did. Increasingly, I have a much different sense of the Holiness that people call God. It is not a personal being. It is a Power. Most of the time I call it "The Holy". Sometimes I refer to it as "Life". I don't know (and can't know) its true nature, but I believe that whatever it is that people generally refer to as "God" expresses itself to humans in Story, whether we call it myth, scripture, or simply tales. The Holy is made manifest in Story. 

Storytellers bring that Divine Story to humans and, in so doing, orient us toward The Holy, which appears to me to be both our source and our ultimate destination.  (ooooooo, a bit of Teilhard de Chardin dredged up from some long-ago catechism class!?) 

I wouldn't want to push that metaphor too far, but there are sparkling little flecks of truth glittering out from all that tortured language, whispering to me that I'm not wasting my time when I spend so many hours of every day struggling to find the right words to tell the Stories that have been given to me, even the ones that are not overtly about spiritual themes.

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