Sunday, May 29, 2011

To Be Continued!

I lost a week, my bad.  I plead too much going on, too much confusion.  I will return, I promise!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Storytelling Part 2

Ah, it's good to be back home.  It's good to be facing the blank electronic page.  A lot of people share with me how they would like me to write, what they'd like to see, etc.  I don't mind, I even enjoy some of their suggestions.  But I have to find my own way through the forest.

I was remembering Arthur Kennedy.  This may or may not be his real name.  I only knew him in the third grade when he arrived at our school; later he had moved away.  Arthur would today be labeled hyperactive, I'm guessing.  Many of us felt relief when he was no longer with us.  I'm sorry I have no idea what happened to him.  But my remembrance of little Arthur is associated with the beginning of storytelling in my class.  My class of about 25 then, which remained together all the way from Kindergarten through senior year, adding another 15 or so when school districts merged.

Somewhere near the beginning of third grade we students were encouraged to come to the front of the class and tell a story.  It's interesting that I have accessible memories of storytelling at Arthur's time and later, which was my time, in the fifth grade, but nothing in between.

Arthur was crazy about telling stories; he practically ran to the front of the class.  "I went out behind my house last night after supper, and this Nazi jumped me from behind a tree!"  He put a lot of expression into this, jumping up and down.  But already Mrs. Palat was on him,  "Arthur, no, no, no!  You stop right there young man.  The Germans are our friends now, Arthur.  You sit down right now and tonight, for your homework, think of a better story."

Poor Art.  The next day he tried again.  "Saturday after breakfast I was out walking behind Mrs. Kelly's when I saw this JAP hiding behind her fence, getting ready to JUMP ME!!!"

"Arthur, this is ridiculous!" screamed Mrs. Palat.  "The war is OVER, Arthur.  The Japanese people are our FRIENDS!  Now you sit yourself right down again until you can think of a better story."  If he ever did, I don't remember.

It was 1954 and Joe McCarthy was making up stories like a madman, spotting communists under every bush, getting ready to jump us.  The Russians had exploded the hydrogen bomb.  We needed the Japs and the Nazis to be our friends.

Skipping ahead to the fifth grade, I remember Joey and I telling stories in front of the class quite often.  If I remember right, we had kind of a competition.  I only clearly remember my last story, the one I could never quite finish, about a boy walking a great wide white road, could have been limestone blocks.  It took place in Egypt among the pyramids, and the boy held a magic wand which could do whatever he wished it to do.  Some of the other kids used to occasionally ask me, whatever happened in that story?  The story went underground.

Now at this point someone should ask, "Alex, what was going on in your life then?  That your wonderful storytelling ability became wounded?"  And if it were the right person asking, and the right time, I would go along with that.  But for me, now, at this time in my life, that feels rather boring.  I've told those stories; they're old stories.  And, even if I am denying something, perhaps the reader will indulge me.  Because I would rather think of the magic wand.  Because every child has one.  It works for a long time, but it gets battered, bent, and finally broken. 

It is a magic wand that heals.  It gives people a "cubic centimeter of chance" to tell a truth, a truth which sets them free.  It's a part of the package of "becoming again as a little child" in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven again -- this time with a more conscious mind than before.

A beautiful woman told me a story of her childhood innocence and how it helped heal her father, who was suffering from a rare nervous disorder from which he was trying to heal himself.  He was a minister and a believer in faith healing, not because he distrusted doctors or modern medicine -- in fact, he had at one time begun studying to become a doctor himself.  But doctors could give him no clear diagnosis for his ailment, which had left him almost paralyzed for a time.  It may have been food poisoning which caused it.  No one knows for sure.  But the man knew he had to heal himself, this time.  "Physician, heal thyself."  And he had been a physician of the ministry, a preacher of the Bible and of revelations he had received, he felt, directly from the Heavenly Host.

It was a long recovery, lasting a period of several months.  The illness had begun on a trip far from home, and his family was warned that he would be quite different when he was able to finally return home.   When he did return, he told his wife and children, "You have to help me walk every day, and every day I must walk a few steps farther.  If I do not do this I will die."

One evening after supper  he walked with his youngest daughter, and he could not help sharing a few of his gloomy thoughts and fears. "But Tinkerbelle and Tina Maria, they're still o.k., aren't they Daddy?"  asked the child brightly.  The man looked up from the ground to see where his child was looking, and he saw instantly that she had a relationship with two stars overhead, that indeed she had a friendship with these two stars.

"Yes, yes, of course they are alright, my dear."  And his heart was greatly relieved, and he knew he would be better.  And in time, he became totally healed of his illness. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Homer's Story goes on percolating below the surface of my life; I'll continue it here soon.

Of the teachers in my life, who not only taught me but many, and who I knew personally, the last was Daniel Wright.  He used to occasionally announce "story night," and a group of us would gather in a big room and tell stories, anecdotes from the communal history of Padanaram.  We still do this occasionally, though Daniel has passed over ten years ago.  We gather in the "old school" around an open fireplace.  Maybe we pick a number out of a hat, and when our number is called we tell a story that comes to mind.  Last time, I talked about my friend who died, a drunken artist named Jerry, of whom I was very fond.  I'll write about him here in this space someday.

I like this space, I find it very relaxing.  When people are relaxed, the best stories come up.  Today it is already too late in the morning for peace.  The phone is ringing, a trip is coming up tomorrow, people are coming and going.

The best publication I know for stories, whether invented, fantasized, or memoir, is The Sun.  And this reminds me, I have to renew my subscription.  I believe it's $36/year, but there is no advertising in it.  I haven't had any luck getting anything of mine published there, but I may try again sometime.  One of my favorite sections of that magazine is called "Readers Write," and it's always around a certain chosen theme.

A great way to dislodge stories from memory is to attend a workshop of the Foundation for Community Encouragement.  These are held in order to give people an experience of "true community," but a big part of this is people's stories.  Some folks have a sort of continuing, ongoing "story" that they can't stop themselves from telling.  We all know people like this.  In an FCE workshop someone is always trying to nudge or provoke you into telling a deeper story, a more authentic story.  This brings conflict and chaos into the group, and this has to run its course.  People are defensive about wanting others to hear their habitual stories.  For new stories to emerge, there must be silence, acceptance of limitations of time and place and personality, and attentiveness, both within and without.  This can be extraordinarily difficult to achieve in a group setting.  A deeply moving personal story usually cannot be born without excruciating pain, and this pain is beyond individual endurance.  When the pain can be shared in a group, the story can come out.  In this way, we become other people.  We become more than a mere solitary self.

If this movement can be continued over time, under the guidance of an inspired teacher like Mel Lyman or Daniel Wright, then a "group soul" can be born.  Usually it takes a time, a period of years, of communal living, of total sacrifice of the self.