Figuring out how to be a human has become something of a life’s work, and I have found solace, inspiration and deep guiding wisdom in stories. They speak a kind of heart language that bypasses the domesticated and linear rationality of a societally compliant human. Every time I listen to a deep and well-told story I learn something important. I love tales that have survived the eons and travelled miles, passed from teller to ear to teller. They survived because they were useful guides on how to live a human life, or poignant and silly entertainment. A wise woman has convinced me that those stories that appear to be patriarchal nonsense about maidens awaiting rescue are worth a second chance, and that it’s necessary to dig about for their useful roots where they’ve been given a heavy overcoat of patriarchy.
I’m very interested in the mind, I love the way characters in stories are like parts of us, but more than our individual self too. They give such wisdom, which is understood by an old animal soul inside, for its archetypal resonance, not by cognitive theorising. You know a powerful story when it catches in your breath or your heart; it has something relevant and resonant for you.
Stories for me are a way of metaphoring life; the neurosis becomes an epic quest into the caverns of I-don’t-know-what. Bringing the mythic back into life makes our struggles meaningful, not problematic, isolating or pathological. Seen this way we have a duty to go in deep, to quest, to learn what we must learn, and to story it to share with the community on our return. I suppose storytelling itself helps create that community, one that will listen and hear the wisdom you’ve mined, recognise it as treasure, confirm that you are not just a mad old hatter! In this sense, I’ve found the stuff of life can be re-narrated to shift my perception of a situation, or the way a memory is held emotionally within me.
Stories legitimately allow me to be absurd and silly with purpose; to invoke the ridiculous and bring some glee and laughter. They demand the imagination wakes up, brushes off its dusty head and sets to work in our lives. They sneak the magic back in even if you’re trying not to let it.
Stories and nature bring a slowing down and meaning to life for me. Particularly because both are likely to leave me with just as many questions as answers. When my feeble human mind goes stomping about the woods looking for everything to make sense and fit into some theory I might have, suddenly a herd of geese take flight honking like outraged cashiers, or a buzzard wafts my busy head with a quick and silent wing and I’m back, laughing at the absurdity of this human brain.