This is the season of the story. Because at the heart of every faith — within the faith of every heart, nestled like a growing bird — is story. Sometimes one (an empty tomb, the vengeful hand of a god who passes over the houses marked with blood), sometimes many (when light & dark are equal, when the bad luck of the past year is washed clean). But always story.
Human beings love stories. We remember best, new research shows, when we learn through narrative. We may learn through doing, but we are caught & touched & transformed through our sharing of stories.
Once upon a time it was winter. And it was dark, and cold, and we were far too young a people to know if light would ever warm us again. There was fire sometimes. Not often enough. And there was never enough food, it seemed. Yet still we found lambs to bleed, and goats to sacrifice. Because the nights were long & full of fear, and it seemed that sunlight would never again warm us. And then, slowly — almost imperceptibly — the days began to lengthen. Until spring was vivid in the grass and air and sky, and our stories were no longer dark tales of death, but brighter, full of hope & redemption.
What I love best about learning is the many new stories knowledge gives us. Today I saw a picture of a long-maned wolf — a canid left over from prehistoric times, possibly. Neither fox nor wolf, not dog or related closely to any of the above. Now, this previously unknown animal is chasing its stories through my thoughts.
Doesn’t everyone love stories? The escape from time, the suspense, the magic of entering another world… They needn’t even be fantastic, the stories that captivate us. A tale of a cranky customer in front of a friend, told with an ear for accent and detail. The adventure we had on vacation, tackling an unplucked chicken from the market. Even the ordinary — transformed into story — charms.
To charm: a kind of magic, from the same root as ‘incantation.’ This is what good stories do to us — transform us, perform a kind of magic. Religions teach with stories: fable & parable & midrash & koan. We teach our children with stories — examples & moral tales & even fairy ballads. And on Palm Sunday, and the Eve of Passover, the stories of what we believe in — our deepest faiths — shine brightly for me.
They are transcendent, the best stories. Some of them are even poems. Here’s one I read this weekend, that a friend then sent me. Somehow — although we do not share the same religious beliefs — we do share the religion of poetry. She is as deep a believer in the stories poetry feeds us as I am. Sometimes I even beg the question (contentious in Oklahoma) of what my religion is, answering, ‘My religion is poetry.’ And in many ways it is. Like God in the poem, I am always thinking about poetry ~
Fishing in the Keep of Silence by Linda Gregg
There is a hush now while the hills rise up
and God is going to sleep. He trusts the ship
of Heaven to take over and proceed beautifully
as he lies dreaming in the lap of the world.
He knows the owls will guard the sweetness
of the soul in their massive keep of silence,
looking out with eyes open or closed over
the length of Tomales Bay that the egrets
conform to, whitely broad in flight, white
and slim in standing. God, who thinks about
poetry all the time, breathes happily as He
repeats to Himself: there are fish in the net,
lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.
In this beginning of spring, when we once again begin our return to light and warmth, I wish for you stories. Tales that feed you, nurture you, and perhaps provide a bit of transcendence to light your darker hours. Tales that take wing. And if you’d like to share them, I’d love to listen ~