Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tell Me a Story

The world is full of storytellers.

There are enough columnists, authors, bloggers, tweeters, and filmmakers to make your head spin, and they are all telling stories (and I am one of them). But what about true storytellers? These are the people who can stand in front of a group and spin a yarn without any props, dictionaries, thesauruses, slides, notes, drawings, scribbles, doodles, cheat sheets, or pictures (moving or otherwise).

There is something to be said for listening to a story unfold before your ears as its told by a skilled storyteller. I have to admit, it's probably been a long time since I last heard someone tell a story that wasn't some recounting of an event in an effort to relive the experience, or boast, or simply hear themselves talk. We all gather around the water cooler, or at the bar, or in the kitchen at someone's house, and we tell tall tales about the one that got away (fish, girls, boys, all of the above), or the single greatest / funniest / scariest / offensive / interesting / cool thing to happen that week. But how many of us actually stand up and tell a story simply for the fun of it? For the sake of the story alone.

Well after heavily researching the history of storytelling (OK, I briefly skimmed this page on Wikipedia), I can say that storytelling is not completely gone, and there are many practicing storytellers - and even storytelling associations - today. That being said, I do have a concern that all this writing and multi-media and social media might be damaging this ancient art.

Everything today is documented, recorded for posterity, indexed, and completely searchable with a few clicks. The company that went on to become Open Text Corporation put the Oxford English Dictionary in an electronic format and at the time that was a major accomplishment. Just a few years later, all the information online surpassed that stored on paper, and a lot of that information includes transcription of previously existing text, as well as audio and video of just about everything to happen (and everything made up) since we figured out how to keep track.

Where would we be today if more than a handful of people could read and write back when Pontius Pilate was holding court? Jesus in the 21st century would have a webcam in his tomb and a billion people would be watching it 24/7 like those falcons in Alberta.

Some guy: "Did you hear about the crucifixion?"
Some other guy: "Dude, some guy tweeted the whole thing from his basement and didn't even know what was happening!"

I guess what I'm getting at is that everything today is so traceable that it's to the point where even someone telling a story is on YouTube. Part of me thinks that's a little bit sad.

This kind of universal browser history allows us to track pieces of information back to their origins and then analyse the differences between versions of this and variations of that, and to compare and rank and +1 and re-tweet... and I get the sense that the phrase "word of mouth" might actually be losing its meaning.

Somewhere along the way we've forgotten what it's like to just sit... and listen... and enjoy.

Thanks for reading ;)


1 comment:

  1. Some of us are only a generation or two away from people who knew and revered storytellers. My mother used to tell me stories about when she was a young girl and would go to the local market with her family. While she was waiting for her mother and aunts to finish their shopping, she would listen to an old, blind storyteller who would tell tales of heroes and battles from ages long past. While trying to describe these experiences, her voice would soften, and she would be looking far away to something beautiful, and something that helped form how she looked at the world. Tweet that, basement dude.

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