Tall Tales – thoughts on stories and using them:

As a teacher I use stories all the time. Painting images of archetypes truly allows a concept or lesson to be picked up, played with and felt at an emotional level. Recently there seems to be a recurring theme in the conversations I have been engaged in. “We talk about authentic, do stories need to be true?” If you know why you are telling a story then you are always going to know the truth in it and to me this is the foundation of authenticity. I particularly like stories that challenge the status quo and commonly held norms. Even tall tales can have integrity, you merely need your audience to know that the message of the story is what is important. The disconnect occurs when something is passed off as real which isn’t and then we have to contemplate the story of the boy that cried wolf.

Some years ago I was working building trail, groups of five to twenty of us would go out into mountain parks and create and repair routes through the foothills of Colorado‘s Front Range. One of my colleagues was a young man named David. David had a penchant for stretching the truth, his motivation seemingly to create something incredulous out of a normal life. This was so much the case that he had earned the nickname, Liar Liar. One morning he came in claiming sickness, we tended to think it was the result of a late night. Following walking in to our site in extremely hot weather he proceeded to go and lie under the tarp we set up for shade at breaks. While the rest of us sweated, David snored and to say the least sympathy was the farthest thing from our minds. Just before lunch there was a scream from the tarp and David came out running, looking distraught and cursing about a snake. Now it should be noted that David the bull riding, sky diving, extreme fighter was terrified by snakes, even so we certainly were not inclined to believe his latest story of a large rattlesnake slithering over his chest while he slept.

Out of curiosity and armed with a suitable excuse to down tools we meandered over to the tarp to witness the site of his newest escapade. Imagine our surprise when we saw a big old snake curled up by the backpack which had obviously served as a pillow. David had told the truth; this was a shock, especially when the snake was the largest rattlesnake I have ever seen. It was a beautiful and unusual green color and sat at the end of it’s tail were 16 globes which made the most incredible sound when we tried to move it on with a lengthy stick.

The point of my story is that David’s intention in telling his story was entirely lost due to the previous pattern of his behavior. While he was digging for sympathy we were all laughing. Rather than believe his story we had believed he was going to tell us an untruth.

On another note we often disbelieve stories because of our perceptions of them. Fish tales are never true right? So here is a shameless plug for my wife, the woman some know as a prissy cheerleader and others a mom. Here is the result of 4 hours in the Kenai River while I was away working and that is no lie. This may tell you something about who the provider is in this household?

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Who gives you food for thought? How do they supply material for the messages you want to share?

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The Power of Stories

I am contemplating renaming this blog “walks with a 5 year old” as walking Cai into school is giving me a lot of fodder for thought. The other morning he wanted to talk about “how to train your dragon.”

If you have been reading these posts regularly then you might have surmised that we do not allow our little boy much screen time; our reasoning being that we are hoping he nurtures a vivid imagination; one where he has to create his own images rather than adopt the ones presented on tv, in movies or on computer games / websites. The hardest part of this for him is that he often does not know what his friends are talking about. So picture this poor, deprived boy who has seen a movie before a number of his friends. Basically he is like the proverbial pig in poo and he is intent on acting out the role of “Hiccup the viking” and his dragon at any possible moment. Thankfully, since seeing the movie, we have also read the book which has a very different plot to the movie. (No guesses as to which I prefer.)

So as I said, we were engaging in the morning ritual of walking and talking into school and Cai wanted to tell me about how the story is true. Now I certainly did not wish to disillusion or argue with him, but the thought of vikings with Scottish accents living in a world of cliffy, sea stacks that make St. Kilda look like a tropical beach causes me shiver. I started to ask him which story (the movie or the book) were true. We then looked at how the story of Hiccup and how being kind to Toothless the dragon was similar to a lot of other stories. The “truth” of the story  being that an animal that was known for being selfish and feisty became friendly and selfless after being treated with unconditional love. This “truth” is the same as stories that we might find in the Bible or the teachings of Buddha, it is the basis of many novels and a lot of myths. Cai; who used to go to Dharma school when we lived in Anchorage, then proceeded to tell me the story of Prince Siddhartha and how he became the Buddha. He also informed me that it did not matter if the events had happened or not because the story was true. This has got me thinking a lot about what is the truth in the stories I tell.

When you distill it down, what is the truth in your favorite story?


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