Lately I’ve been feeling like a very small dot on a big, troubled planet. The stories I hear on awakening or while preparing a meal are like vultures pecking at my peace of mind.
We all know the headlines: Devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan. Floods in Australia. Tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. Protests in Egypt. Civil war in Libya. Acidification and plastic pollution of our oceans. Peak oil. Climate change. Drought. Hunger. Disease. Fear. Violence. Corruption.
So I was pulled up short when Liz Weir, a dear friend and one of the best storytellers on the planet, sent this to me:
You storytellers know how to describe peace. We need you more than ever.
I am a journalist. I get paid for writing about wars and other disasters.
You storytellers know the truth behind what we other people think is the
Tell us all about it!
Winfried is a talented writer and musician. He is also an astute critic. He has experienced the spell of Liz’s stories. He understands that in the space between words and listeners something important happens. And that something is truth.
Not the capital T kind that True Believers of any ilk use as a club. More the subtle kind of truth that sneaks up on us and startles us into awareness.
So many times I’ve been jolted upright by a story. Epiphanies emerge from folk tales, myths, and legends. They rise out of history, family stories, and dinner conversation. And, yes, they pop up in the news.
Just this past week I’ve been reminded of that. Bombarded by death, loss, destruction and war, I have found refreshment in the well of stories.
When workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant began exposing themselves to dangerous levels of radiation, I remembered the story Dr. Wangari Maathai told in the movie Dirt! While all the animals of the forest fled a raging fire, the hummingbird flew back and forth, filling her beak with water, pouring it on the fire. She persisted when the other animals mocked her puny efforts. Matthai said she will be like the hummingbird: “I will do the best I can.”
A video about factory farming plunged me into despair, but another about a dog who would not leave his injured canine pal buoyed me. The two friends were rescued by compassionate volunteers. The injured dog was taken to the vet, the faithful pal to a no-kill shelter. The video went viral, and money poured in to help other animals in need of rescue.
A couple days ago Dayna from Bella Coola sent me the link to Singing Our Treasures Back to Life. She cautioned me to start at the bottom, with the first entry, and work my way up. The blog has only a few entries, every one of them powerful.
Six young men from the Heiltsuk community traveled from Bella Bella, British Columbia, to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The young men brought the spirit of the Heiltsuk people to objects taken from their land long ago. Their intent was “to sing these treasures back to life”.
The whole account is deeply moving. I will never again look at items in a museum in quite the same way. And so I take to heart this message from the blog:
“Please carry this story with you. It’s your story now, and I want you to share it. Celebrate with us. We uphold you and uplift you – you have witnessed something that is of great importance to us. The strength of our story, like the strength of our people, will not diminish. We hold it in a sacred space within us – a space of narrative, memory and language – a space of touch and sound and light – a space that is shared between all of us, and you, and everyone who reads this. We will remain strong together.”
Strong together. Yes. That’s it. Our world’s not just a sorry old place. It is mysterious and beautiful. Our lives have meaning. For every act of corruption, violence or betrayal, there are thousands more of generosity, love or compassion.
We must tell those stories. We must live those stories. We must pass them on.
Stories are a sacred legacy.
Stories are our truth.