The Sacred Art of Story
There is a great creative well from which all storytellers drink. It is made up of the creative souls of every artist who ever lived, going all the way back to the heart of our tribe, the woman who stood before the central fire in times long forgotten, telling and retelling the stories of her people. Every religion sprang from such stories. Think about the power of that! You and I are a part of that sacred tradition. We, artists of every sort, have been chosen as members of a priesthood of our tribe. We have been given a sacred and vital task, and nothing less is at stake than the preservation of our people. Within that tradition, we find themes; similar tales being told over and over and over, down through generation after generation. An earlier version of the biblical flood story gave Noah’s name as Ziasudra and another, as Utanapishtim. An earlier tale of the god who died and spent three days in the Underworld before being resurrected, was told about the Goddess Inanna. An earlier story about a babe born in a manger on the Winter Solstice night, was the tale of the birth of Mithras, a sun god. (And even earlier, it was the story of the birth of the sun itself.) And those are just the earliest written down versions of the tales. There were far older versions, passed down through the oral tradition, going back into the mists of time, farther than man or science has yet understood.
Storytelling takes multiple forms. We, the storyteller caste, convey the tales of our people through visual art, and our canvases range from cave walls to museum walls, from TV screens to computer screens, from carved wood and stones and beads to modern sculptures in marble or metal or clay. Stories are told by actors whose earliest stages were the packed brown earth in the center of their village. Every single form of art is an extension of the storyteller’s soul. And so what we do as creative artists of any type is a sacred calling. Our stories, our art, have purpose. And that purpose is not hitting a bestseller list, winning an award, or making a pile of money. Those things are side effects, happy ones. There’s nothing wrong with receiving acclaim and wealth from our work, and indeed, we would prefer that to the alternative. But that cannot be and has never truly been the goal of the storyteller. The goal of the storyteller is to connect our tribe. We weave the threads of story that create the very fabric of our culture. We link our people to our shared past and to our imagined future. We link our people to each other. We are Grandmother Spider, weaving the web of our kind through story. This is not a job. It’s a calling. When we think of it that way, it becomes a lot harder to waste our time worrying about petty things like whether someone else’s sacred tale is too similar to ours, or whether someone else’s sacred tale is more widely told than our own, or whether one form of sharing the sacred tale is more valid than another, be it print, or paint, or voice or a series of digital 0s and 1s. Instead, once we have accepted the call, we turn our thoughts far bigger questions, the biggest of them all being this: What will our stories add to the fabric of our tribe? What kind of energy are we bringing to our people through the power of our art? I hear some of you grumbling now. “But I write to entertain, not to enlighten! I don’t want to make every piece a life lesson!” But every work of art is just that, whether you intend it to be or not. Every story we tell adds a thread to the web of the story of our people. Every genre has a message, a theme. My chosen genre is one where I know the message well.
The message of the romance genre is that love always prevails, that hope is never false, and that happy ever after is an unwritten guarantee. I love that. I am proud of that. I believe that what I do changes lives. That is the best feeling in the world. So as you go forward into your day of storytelling in whatever medium or genre you choose, I want you to remember that you and I are the weavers of the web of our culture, and each and every thread we add to that fabric, has the power to change the design, to enhance it, to add to its beauty. We are the flow and we are the ebb. We are the weavers, we are the web. Until next week!
*Please note, the fantastic images used in this post are part of TNT Design’s collection on Shutterstock.com, and the rights to use them were purchased legally. Please respect the copyright of your fellow creators. Do not copy-and-paste these images. If you want to use them, you can do so legally for a very few dollars.