Current mood: rejuvenated
I just got home within the hour from the closing ceremonies and the post-closing ceremonies from this year's Three Rivers Storytelling Festival. As usual, my mind was full to exploding with cool stories, humorous reflections, musings on the deeper meaning of life, and the sheer joy of hanging out with intelligent, likable people.
To this day, I recall one take-home idea from the 2008 festival, teller Dan Keding's observation that "You cannot hate a man if you know his story." Think how much of the world's misery could be avoided or nullified by applying this simple idea. The more you know about how someone you don't like thinks, the easier it is to accept what they're trying to do. This does not universally apply, but the so-common type of hate and bad mojo based on ignorance and fear could be much lessened, if only some good storytelling could be injected into the situation.
The evening's last story featured storyteller Michael Parent describing an almost fist-fight between a 220-pound galute, and a 130-pound stringbean. The skinny guy, who'd done as much detention in school as the galute, also knew how to push the big guy's buttons, and further knew that he needed a "Bugs Bunny moment", to come up with a brilliant idea under pressure that would not only defuse the fight, but win the confrontation. In telling the story, which had the big guy challenge the skinny guy to any contest he could come up with if he wasn't actually going to fight, which he declined because he knew he'd lose, the teller recited two full minutes of John Milton's Paradise Lost, from memory. This in itself was priceless, something that few humans outside of a third-year college English course might ever get to experience. Yet it was an integral part of both the plot of the story and the telling of the story.
Earlier in the day, Mark Twain impersonator Charles Kiernan took us to the second half of the 19th century, and became Twain. He explained how he went out and found the measels and survived them, how while working for his brother he took on the other newspaper in town and greatly increased both papers' circulations, how he got to be a true licensed river pilot and learned a lot about learning on the way, and finally how he got into serious writing.
What matters here is that so few people attend these sorts of festivals. For all the crap on the TV and radio and Internet, here was something that could benefit everyone, all simply free for the showing up and sitting still for a half hour at a time.
Anyone can tell a story. Anyone can listen. It's the oldest form of entertainment known to man, the simplest, as well as the most sincere, the most intimate, and the most powerful in its effect on people. It goes on all the time, everywhere, but if you can get to a local festival, you can see how well it can be done. It will be certainly worth your while.