Storytelling is the oldest profession in the world. Storytelling is even older than the profession you probably think of when you hear the phrase, "the oldest profession."
Storytellers are essential to preserve and pass-on our traditions, legends and myths. Without Storytellers, we'd have no record of our journey along this time continuum we call life. Without a record, we would not be able to learn from the past. History does repeat itself, but without Storytellers, the cycle would be much shorter and infinitely more deadly.
That's why the best Storytellers have always been revered and treated with great love and respect. That's why, "Let me tell you a story," is bound to calm the most agitated psyche, and that's a good place for me to get to the meat of this topic. Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I was just a little thing, a bit taller than a milk bottle, something you can no longer find, so you'll just have to imagine how young I was. Anyway, about that time, I determined that I would be a Storyteller when I grew up. I shared the news with my mother, who was horrified. "A storyteller," she gasped. "How would I explain that to my friends? What would your grandmother think?"
I was four, or maybe five years old at the time. I wasn't concerned about what anyone thought. I just knew that I wanted to be a Storyteller, and I knew I had to find someone to teach me, my mother making it abundantly clear that she would not be the person for the job.
That very afternoon, I asked Daddy King about Storytelling, and where I could go to learn how to do that. He thought about the question a long time. That's why I always asked him when there was a something I really wanted to know. Finally, he looked and me, smiled, and said, "Pistol, that is a good question. And the best answer I have is this, there is no place to go and learn how to be a Storyteller. There are places to go to learn how to write a story, and there are please to go to learn how to get on a stage and tell a story, but there is no place to go to learn how to be a Storyteller..."
He paused, and I waited, because I knew there was more coming. A few minutes later he said, "You see, there are many people who can write a story, we call those people authors, and there are a lot of people who can tell stories, we call them actors, or preachers..." He paused, smiling at his own joke, which I didn't get, but knew it was in his reference to preachers, because he had a thing about preachers; a thing I noticed that he didn't share with everyone.
"Let's see," he said, as he continued. "How can I explain the difference between writers, actors, preachers, and Storytellers," he mused. I waited. Daddy King was my grandfather. He knew everything, and he didn't mind sharing his knowledge with me if I didn't mind waiting. I never did mind.
He sat in silence for a moment, and then he said, "A writer makes things up and puts them on paper. A preacher walks around on stage and tells people how to live their lives when everyone knows that he doesn't know how to live his own. An actor will entertain you by pretending to be a character he read about in some author's story. But a Storyteller is something different. A Storyteller is a person who is willing to relive an event to make sure you either don't have to, or if you decide to, you'll did it better than you probably would have done it otherwise." He stopped talking for a moment and then he looked in my eyes and asked, "Pistol, do you understand what I'm saying?"
"I'm not sure, Daddy King. Talk about it a some more."
He smiled, and then said, "Okay, I can do that. The difference between a writer, a preacher, actor, and a Storyteller, is simply this, a Storyteller will always tell you the truth. It might be exaggerated a bit, or it might lack some of the fine detail, but it will be the truth, and you will know the story is true when you hear it."
He must have seen a bit of confusion remaining in my eyes, because he added, "Pistol, you think about what I've said, and what I mean will come to you."
Well, I've thought about it, and I've thought about it lot. I've thought about it for sixty-five years, and I've figured it out. The difference between a Storyteller and someone who tells a story, is this. Before a Storyteller tells a story, they live it. That's what every Storyteller does. It's in living a story that that a Storyteller learns to tell a story. There is no other way. And living isn't taught in schools, or by parents, and certainly not by preachers. Living is its own teacher. Now, that brings up another point of prime importance.
Living and existing are two very different things. Everyone who isn't dead is existing. That is, they are breathing and maintaining the vital signs that are necessary for a human to be declared alive. Living, on the other hand, requires consciousness, or to put it another way, to live, you must be present in the moment that we call simply, "here and now."
When you live in the here and now, you are qualified to be a Storyteller, if that's a path you choose to travel. Those who take that way, are able to calm storms and quiet storm-tossed seas, with the magic phrase that has passed from Storyteller to Storyteller, since the beginning of time -
"Once upon a time..."
Tomorrow's post will be number 17 in the Norman Rockwell inspired blog series. I call it A Gentler Place and I'll use this Rockwell painting to illustrate it: