Saturday, March 20, 2010

When Was the Last Time You Told Your Story?

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
~ Muriel Rukeyser

Only connect.
~ E.M. Forster

Those were exceptional times, the darkest of ages, in a land where "once upon a time" was a forbidden phrase and fact the only legal tender.
~ The MoonQuest

It's said that Native American medicine men ask three questions of the sick:
• When was the last time you sang?
• When was the last time you danced?
• When was the last time you told your story?

We're all natural storytellers, sharing our stories every time we communicate with someone -- whether it's a casual water-cooler chat or deep conversations with a close friend.

Dr. Anne Foerst, a professor of theology and computer science at St. Bonaventure University and author of God in the Machine: What Robots Teach Us About Humanity and God, has suggested that rather than calling ourselves homo sapiens ("wise man"), we should call ourselves homo narrandus ("storytelling man").

That's because storytelling is innate, possibly predating spoken language itself. It's easy to imagine that after our caveman ancestors returned to the communal fire from a day's hunting and gathering, they gestured, grunted and mimed their adventures to their fellow primitives. One way or another, we've been telling stories ever since.

Too often, though, our stories are censored...sometimes, even from ourselves. Too often, we live safe and small, reigning in our passions, opening only to the least risky experiences, sharing only the most superficial aspects of our lives.

We've been conditioned to be afraid of opening our hearts and expressing our depth. We've been taught to be shallow and clever. We've learned to equate vulnerability with unacceptable risk.

Yet the only way to touch others deeply is to allow ourselves to be touched deeply. And the only way to tell the stories that change lives, including our own, is through the kinds of leaps of faith that open us to judgment, mockery and ridicule...those same leaps of faith that open us to profound connection and transformation, to the ever-present magic and miracle that wait only for us to notice them and welcome them into our lives.

My novel, The MoonQuest, is the story of a society where storytelling has been banned, storytellers have been banished and all vision and creativity have been extinguished.

It's also my story.

I don't know why, when or how my storytelling was silenced. All I know is that I was dead inside until The MoonQuest's story began to tell itself through me. As its main characters found their voices, I found mine. As they shared their darkness, I shared mine. Only then did I realize that The MoonQuest's story of creative awakening was also mine and that it was a story I had to free into the world.

From that story came other stories. From that opening came other openings. From that healing came other healings.

As I write in the epigraph to The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, writing is "truly a tool of wizards, witches and sorcerers." It’s through the alchemy of our stories, lived authentically and shared truthfully, that all worlds change, beginning with our own.

• When was the last time you sang?
• When was the last time you danced?
• When was the last time you told
your story?

Whether it was last night or last year, it's time to do it again -- to deepen the experience, for yourself and all those fortunate enough to share in it.

• Need helping awakening, accessing, developing or deepening your stories? Consider these workshops and coaching groups -- in New Mexico and beyond.


Rupert said...

Whether through the written word or through deep conversation with a friend ( I like both), you are right, to tell our story or any that has meaning to us is so important, and so undervalued.

Mark David Gerson said...

Thank as always, Rupert, for your thoughtful comments.

Sun Singer said...

Over the weekend, my wife and I visited some people in the NW part of the state whom we've known since the 1970s but only see a few times a year.

Last night, as usual for our conversations, we shared many stories with each other in addition to the day to day catching up.

We just naturally fall into it whether it's tall tales, yarns or pivotal childhood memories.


Evelyn said...

OMG, Mark David, this is wonderful! I never thought about it but you are so very right -- it's an oppotunity to be "free" from society's rules that oppress and somewhat govern what we do and how we express ourselves. Sigh.

Another pen stroke of genius on your part! What made you think of this?

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks, Evelyn. (The Muse made me do it!)

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful and true. Writing is so spiritually freeing...

Mark David Gerson said...

Writing certainly can be spiritually freeing, when we surrender and allow it to come from a deeply authentic place. Thanks for the comment.

graceofgodgoI said...

Funny everyone tells me it's what I do best, telling stories, so I began writing a few years back, and then I started to blog So I did what I do best, tell stories, come visit me at and read some of my scifi flash fiction, with the hipriestess.

the guy in room 1135 said...

I like the idea of people SHARING a story just as much as your individual stories.
I just like the idea.