06 December 2005

Telling Tales out of ... (or "Maybe the Greeks were right")

Necessity. Not school.

I had a long conversation on the phone last night with a friend and by then end, we were both laughing so hard it hurt. Are we that humorous? No -- we were telling stories, regaling each other with the tales of the happenings that had been going on in life. (Just what do you do, when Binky the Clown calls the radio station you work at? And how many times do you interview somebody who's had a legitimate conversation with someone about performing elephant shoes?)

We weren't intending to amuse each other with these tales, tales that might not even be that funny when they stand on their own. But I suspect we couldn't help it. Couldn't help telling them full of dramatic pauses and inflection, making each little happening into a dramatic event.

We told them because telling stories is about validating experience and finding catharsis (yep... remember Greek drama?) Pultizer-prize nominated author Frederick Buechner said the storyteller's job is about finding meaning.

Our stories on the phone weren't about deep, philosophical, high-brow insights into life. They were just the trappings of life and relating our experiences to someone else validated how we felt or reacted to a situation. We laughed. We ended the conversation feeling more light-hearted than when we started. It's why all those Greek playwrights wrote those pieces like Oedipus Rex, so that the audience would feel all horrible during the play but satisfy their need for those emotions.

As people, we've been telling each other stories for a really long time because it's how we navigate our world. Think of the ancient mythologies (Greek, Egyptian, Norse, wherever) that explained through stories why things were as they were (changing seasons, why the sun rises, etc).

I don't think story telling is ever going to disappear. We've had the habit this long. Why mess with a good thing?

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