Monday, May 28, 2012

A Plea to Storytellers: Never Forget!

By Shaun McCoy

If you're reading this, ironically, you're probably a writer. I've got to tell you, my brothers and sisters, we used to have it pretty good. Our historic predecessors were responsible for the creation of seminal cultural documents whose tales were regarded as indispensible for development of a person's character. We put out stone cold epics like The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Illiad, the Aeneid, the elder and younger Eddas. Guys, people used to take our stuff pretty darn seriously. On certain ignoble occasions, we even got away with pretending our stories were written by gods (although to be fair, those were probably penned by the predecessors of editors, who even to this day labor under their delusions of divinity).

In those days a successful writer was one who was so influential to his culture that his work would be inflicted on high school students for all time, equipped with a neat little lesson plan that says: "You see this story? This is what it means to be an Ancient Sumerian/Greek/Roman/Norse dude with a pretty kewl spiked helmet."

Things have changed. These days a successful writer might be expected to pen such esteemed tomes as Twilight or Harry Potter.

Yeah, things have gone downhill for us in the last few thousand years. A modern day Herodotus would be torn apart by archaeologists. Scientists and skeptics would giggle at our attempts to explain why spiders spin webs and narcissus flowers think that they're hot stuff. But that doesn't mean it's over, and it sure as heck doesn't mean that we should forget what stories are for.

Nomadic cultures would use their legends as a type of map. A story whose narrative involved a stream would be told about this valley. A tale involving game, or fruits and nuts, might be told about this hill. In this way, even if no member of that tribe had been to a certain place for generations, by listening to the wisdom of their long lost elders a nomad could know where to go in case of drought or famine.

In modern times food and water aren't really all that precious. Wal-Marts are fairly ubiquitous and thanks to the niceties of indoor plumbing, we all literally have our own personal rivers that flow directly into our own homes. But that's not to say that people aren't still hungry and thirsty… not at all. We're just hungry and thirsty for different things.  

We literally live in a world chock full of Homeopathy and hatred. Where lies about living spread through the internet like a Texan wildfire. Where the tools for being connected with the entire world are the same tools that are used to create loneliness and isolation. 

Language was perhaps mankind's first and greatest invention. It lets us learn from the mistakes of others. I love those stories that try and teach wisdom. I love To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Diary of Ann Frank, and The Myth of Sisyphus. I love movies like Milk, Hotel Rwanda, and yes, even Rambo IV. 

So here's my plea: folks. Let's never forget what stories are for, and maybe as you pen your next little ditty you can share with the world your own small secret way of how to find water.


Kim Byer said...

I am feeling empowered! And thirsty.

I read this a few times-- it's an interesting take on this crafty craft. Thanks for the motivation.

Alex said...

The blog is pure Shaun and you give us thoughts...for keeping on."

Anonymous said...

well said - I think stories and myths are essential for life.