Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Friday, June 16, 2006

STORYTELLERS

It is my firm belief that every person is a storyteller. Everyone might not know this, but I do, and I recognize this ability all the time. Not every person is a great storyteller, and I certainly don't count myself in that number. But, everyone has the innate ability to tell a story.

Storytelling is, in fact, the oldest profession. Not the other one that is usually touted. Most everything we now know of past and lost civilizations has come down to us from storytellers. Much of what we know about Sumer (S'inar) and the Sumerians was written down in cuneiform about the demigod, Gilgamesh, along with other documents concerning Creation, the Great Flood, and many other events now deemed to be mythical.

Storytellers probably did much to allay mankind's fears by writing about great events and catastrophes in story form, thus generating myths. Freud and Jung, of course, used such myths, primarily from the Greek writers, to explore the human mind. The storyteller has always been in the vanguard of civilization's progress, and those rulers who did not read or listen to their storytellers, often brought destruction down upon themselves and their cultures.

My father, Keith, told me once that books were the only way we could encounter the great minds of history. He never went past the sixth grade, yet he read books. When he wanted to know about a business or an industry, he sent me to the library and had me check out books on lumbering, the pyramids, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and the like. In so doing, he opened a world of knowledge to me, and I used my library card as if it were a key to all the great minds, the great writers. I read voraciously, and our homes were always filled with books. And, my father read to us. He read novels written by Owen Wister and Zane Grey and his aunt, B.M. Bower, his mother's sister. Aunt Bert wrote under that name because she wrote western novels and men wouldn't accept a woman writing about ranches and rough cowhands, cattle and gun fights. He opened worlds to us with his reading, and his reading told us stories by great storytellers. He read the works of many great writers, including T.E. Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Napoleon Hills', Think and Grow Rich, along with Shakespeare, Plato, Confucius, Aristotle, Socrates and the King James version of The Bible.

If all that existed here on earth were to vanish, if all the people were to die in a flood or be consumed by fire, all that would remain would be the stories told by storytellers. Indeed, this is what has happened throughout history. Atlantis is gone, so is Pompeii, Sumer, the Babylonians and the Akkadians, the Etruscans, the Mayas, the Aztecs, the Olmecs, Toltecs and many other ancient and prehistoric civiilizations.

Why is any of this important? Because, say the sages, by studying the stories, legends, myths and histories of past civilizations and peoples, we can better understand our own lives and our own civilization. While it appears that man has not learned from the past, that we continue to make war and murder and destroy other countries and peoples, the stories give us that little glimmer of hope that helps us keep on keeping on. And, in time, we may learn from the past.

If all on this earth disappears and our cities fall to rubble under the onslaught of a meteor, an earthquake, a gigantic tsunami or from an atomic bomb, life, in some form, will return. And, if some of that life is human, there will be records of us left for that new crop of humans to read and study. When all that we know is gone, the stories will remain. Before there was writing, the stories were told, passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. In those days, the storyteller was the patriarch or matriarch of all succeeding generations. Later, when writing came to be, scribes wrote down those stories.

This is our treasure and our key to knowledge, those stories, tales, histories.

And, even if the storyteller fades into oblivion, we can still hear his or her voice. Stories are living things, passed down from grandparents to children. Stories live forever, even if all the books perish in flame or flood.

Storytelling is not a lost art. It is the very DNA of literature, forever dwelling in man's consciousness like a flower-god that has no beginning and no end, but has lived forever and will forever live on.

And, we, the storytellers of today, are very grateful to those storytellers who came before us and taught us all that we know.

J.S.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Misty said...

My deepest gratitude goes out to all the storytellers of the world for taking the time to share of themselves and provide a richness to life that would otherwise be missing.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Kit Prate said...

Jory - was doing some sugar-high surfing and found your Blog. It is a welcome sight (site)!

I was going through my stacks of books in storage, and found the wrapped copies of the Flying U books. They always are such a treasure! And the Charlie Russell art! Naturally, I did more reading than unwrapping!

Hope that you and Charlotte are well.

4:46 PM  

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