Finding Stories

It begins with a man who learned about the cultural practices of another community by reading about them. An article in a newspaper caught his eye. There were discussions on how different this community’s customs were leading him to interest, curiosity and wanting to learn more. He had heard of these people before but thought that they were either invented-fiction or had all died off hundreds of years ago. Either way, he had an eagerness to learn and understand more about them so he headed to his local library to; discover the facts about this “other culture”.

It only took a short time before many books were found written about this group’s ways of life. How different they were invoked further fascination leading to several books coming home with him all dealing with the group’s culture, teachings, ceremonies and what region of the planet they occupied.

This man was a Storyteller. He made money by imagining stories and presenting them at festivals and gatherings around the world. He had been telling stories for years and had become relatively successful saving a tidy sum of money from his travels. When he learned about this group of people and their fascinating cultural ways of life, he wanted to know more. In one of the books he discovered that these people still lived today in a far away place. He was so excited by the idea that he could actually meet these people that he packed his bags immediately. He would travel all the way around the world to this “cultural community” to learn more.

It was not an easy journey and when he finally arrived, he boarded at a small lodge where things were modest yet comfortable. The Storyteller began to meet people from the region that were living representations of those from his books. It was very exciting. Eventually the Storyteller made his way to a community gathering that was taking place and told people that he was a Storyteller from far away and offered to tell some stories. He was giddy when this was welcomed into the event. After telling a few stories to the crowd with relative success an Elder within the community decided to tell some of their own stories as well. One of the stories she told dealt with many of the traditions of the people from that region and held great meaning to all who lived there. It was a story of their culture and it was everything that the Storyteller had dreamed about.

It was a powerful and epic tale. It was sad and had meanings within it that bridged the concept in a variety of ways making an impact on the audience. It made the Storyteller think deeply afterwards, reflecting on what he had heard for a long time.

Following the gathering the Storyteller could not stop thinking about this “Great Cultural Story”, pondering ways that he could tell the story differently. Ways that he would improve the narrative or make a humorous gesture to increase the audience’s enjoyment of the overall experience. After several hours of these thoughts and a complete sleepless night, the Storyteller set out in the morning to find the Elder and ask about being allowed to tell the story.

As a storyteller who considered himself to be a professional, he wanted to ensure that permission was granted to tell this Great Cultural Story. As a matter of pride he always exchanged stories with colleagues instead of telling ones he had not written himself unless the author gave express consent. Without consent, it would not be right; the Storyteller had too much respect to allow anyone to say he was a thief.

The Storyteller found the Elder and thanked her for telling such a great story. He explained that he wanted to tell the story on future travels so that others could hear how great the Great Cultural Story really was. The Elder explained that it was not her story to give away; the entire community owned the Great Cultural Story and no one person could give the permission they sought. This confused the Storyteller who persisted to find a way that ownership could be shared. Eventually the Elder directed the Storyteller to the community’s Council who handled all their political affairs and governed the region. At this moment the Storyteller thought he knew a way to convince this Council. He was a charming person and had lots of experience talking to large groups of people. The Storyteller left the Elder in search of this council and a way to gain permission to tell the Great Cultural Story.

The Council met a week later and the Storyteller had prepared for the meeting with a plan to solicit the sharing of the Great Cultural Story. The Council met to discuss business of all kinds addressing the region and when they opened the meeting to inquiries from the public, the Storyteller found his moment. He introduced himself and explained that he had come from far away and was a travelling storyteller. He explained that he had learned about their people in books and travelled there specifically to meet them. He then explained how he had met the Elder and heard her tell the Great Cultural Story. He celebrated the story. He explained how powerful and epic a tale it was for him. He pointed out how sad it was and how it had meanings within it that bridged the concept in a variety of ways communicating a huge impact on the audience. He told them how deeply it made him think afterwards and explained how valuable it would be to other people, when he told the story to other regions on his travels. He then asked: “Can I tell your story?” The Council turned to each other for a few moments muttering to each other before turning back to the Storyteller and saying “No”.

They explained that the story was not for him to tell and that, although they appreciated his interest in their story, it needed to remain being told by their people. The Storyteller could not believe what he was hearing. He knew how charismatic he was… is! The Storyteller left the Council meeting discouraged feeling a strange sense of powerlessness. Later in his room at the lodge he thought about leaving. Perhaps he could tell the story anyway, he had never seen any of these people while on his travels, who would even know he had stolen the story? He then thought about his own ethics and that taking stories was outside of what he was capable of. Instead, he thought about being clever and that he would invent a new plan to get the Council to agree to share the story with him. He just needed to spend more time and be patient…

The next day the Storyteller bought a small house within the community. He used his savings to pay for the house and although it needed repairs, it was perfect for him. He set out to repair the house slowly and spent much of his time meeting his new neighbours. He visited with each family in the community one by one talking and at times when appropriate, telling some of his stories. He made many new friends including spending time with the Elder that had originally told him the Great Cultural Story. He invited members of the community to work on his home with him and eventually they all contributed towards building his new home into a place of relevant comfort. This went on for a full year, the seasons changed and with these changes the Storyteller became more commonplace within the region. It was at this time that the Storyteller came back to the Council to ask about being able to tell the Great Cultural Story. He greeted the Council and many of them either remembered him from his previous visit the year prior or remembered him as their new neighbor. He explained that he had lived there for a year and felt that he knew the majority of the community at this point. He then stated that it would be appropriate for the Great Cultural Story to be shared, as he was a friend and member of the community. This made the Council pause for a moment as no one expected this response from him. The Council talked to each other briefly and then turned towards the Storyteller and said “No”. They explained that the story was not for a non-community member to tell and although they really appreciated his interest, the story needed to remain being told by their people. They explained that living with them did not make him part of their community and that he needed to understand his role in the region. The Storyteller heard a very clear message that he was not part of their community. Although he left the Council meeting very upset, he was already thinking of a way to become part of the community and a new plan to gain access to telling the Great Cultural Story.

Later, the Storyteller left his small house with a sense of determination. He would become a strong supporter within the region and an active part of the community he lived within. He signed up as a volunteer at the community centre and worked at the local library helping with events. At first he found the volunteer work challenging but then began to enjoy engaging with everyone. Many people knew him by name and began to look for him at gatherings. The Elder that had told him the Great Cultural Story began having tea with him on a regular basis and she explained where many of the region’s teachings came from. These discussions took place over many weeks and the Storyteller felt more and more like a part of the community he lived within. The Elder shared many stories including many that dealt with the shared history of both the community and that of the Storytellers own people. The Storyteller found that his people had committed many atrocities to the people he now lived with and that many of these issues remained active today. The Storyteller was deeply disturbed by these stories and wanted to tell the Great Cultural Story even more now than ever before. The Storyteller felt that his own people would stop the mistreatments if they heard the Great Cultural Story as it had everything that a good story needed. It was a powerful and epic tale. It was sad and had meanings within it that bridged the concept in a variety of ways making it impact the audience. It made audiences think deeply afterwards, making them reflect on what they heard for a long time.

Later that year the Storyteller met with the Council again to implore them to allow him to tell their story. He explained that he was part of the community now and had contributed heavily to the region. He stated that by telling the Great Cultural Story, his own people would have a much better understanding of his newly declared community in the way that he now did. He begged them to let him help to fix the many years of abuse his own people had committed. The Council acknowledged that the Storyteller was contributing in an amazing way to the community and that everyone in their region appreciated his presence there. The Council then talked to each other briefly and then turned towards the Storyteller and said “No”. They explained that the story had to be told by their people and that some things are not meant for everyone. They explained that there was more than just cultural identity in the story, that the story represented beliefs as well. The Storyteller thought about this for a long time before standing straight and thanking the Council. He left the meeting and went back to his little house.

At first, the Storyteller was lost. He was unsure of what he could do to help. He wanted to tell the Great Cultural Story to his own people more and more but wanted to retain his sense of self worth and respect the wishes of his friends. In the months that followed the Storyteller began engaging more in the community’s ceremonies, learning the teachings of their people and respecting boundaries that were put in place. Some ceremonies were only accessed by those born into the community and as an outsider the Storyteller had to respect their wishes, keeping his distance at times and engaging at others. He continued to volunteer and began working part-time at the Library as they needed help and he had proven a loyal and trustworthy friend to the community. He continued to visit his friend the Elder who welcomed him into many ceremonies and they continued to have tea together every week. The Storyteller began to learn more from the Elder and learned the true history of the region, understanding more and more that the strife between his people and his new community went back many, many generations. The struggles of the past were rooted in all aspects of life causing systemic problems in all aspects of their world and unnecessary suffering to the people he now lived with and considered his family. He learned that many other storytellers had stolen stories like the Great Cultural Story and shared them around the world making profit from their ventures. He found that the stealing of these stories did not change the ways of his people at all. It actually seemed to make the problem worse. He learned of the damage that these actions caused as it erased the presence of his new friends making them seem like legends or myths as they had no presence within larger conversations across the land. This lack of representation allowed for many problems to deepen as his own people thought of his new community as a group without a voice of their own. A person without voice implies that no one is hurt by actions as silence breeds consent. The idea of consent without express invitation often leads to many, many actions all of which can hurt very, very much.

The year seemed to go past quickly and in the fall, the Elder became sick. The Storyteller went to see his friend to have their weekly tea. The Elder was weak and wrapped in blankets. They talked briefly about upcoming events and different ceremonies. The Storyteller could tell that the Elder was very sick, much sicker than she would let him know. After a time talking and sharing stories the Elder said to the Storyteller “Stop worrying about us, you have your whole life ahead of you, You take care of you”. The Storyteller thanked the Elder for her concern, finished the tea and went on his way. Those words stuck with the Storyteller as he left that day. He thought about all the things he had learned and how his life had changed. That visit and cup of tea was the last time he would ever speak to his friend the Elder as the next day she passed away.

The Storyteller was invited to take a large role in the funeral ceremony that would pass the Elder on to the next world. The Elder’s family came from all over and heard from other members of the community how good a friend the Storyteller was. They thanked the Storyteller and shared food with him at a feast for the Elder. After the Elder was put to the ground the Storyteller turned his attention to the Council and their upcoming meeting. He saw a community member passing him on his way home and mentioned to them “The Council better know I am coming”, and he had a determination in his eyes full of tears.

When the next Council meeting took place, the Council knew the Storyteller was coming and instead of conducting regular business they started the meeting by addressing him. They thanked him for everything he had done over the past years and stated that they knew why he was there. They said that he meant so much to the community being a contributor to the region and a supporter of their culture. They told the Storyteller that his efforts being a good friend and strong ally had impacted greatly on many lives. They said that his friend the Elder loved him very much and had talked to them all many times about how charming, clever and determined he was. They said that if he still wanted to tell the Great Cultural Story, he was welcome to do so.

The Storyteller was silent. He looked at his hands and thought for a few moments and then said, “Thank You, but it is not my story to tell”.

The Storyteller then told them about how he had come to the Council meeting to tell them how he planned to leave the region and travel telling stories. This statement visibly upset the Council and the Storyteller explained further to clarify. He stated how he would always return home to his little house of friends and comfort as this region was his home and this community had become his family. Through his actions listening, respecting and sharing he had become a better person and needed to share his own story with his own people so that they could also become better people. He spoke out loud without realizing “You take care of you” as he understood the meaning in the Elder’s words. He explained that his people needed to know what those words meant and that they would have to change their ways.

The Storyteller left the Council meeting and went home and packed his things. He left his little house of comfort and traveled. He had found his story, it was not the Great Cultural Story but it was his own and it represented his voice. His story needed to be told to his people in the way that the Great Cultural Story was told to him and in a way would someday become a Great Cultural Story for his own people. It was a powerful and epic tale. It was sad and had meanings within it that bridged the concept in a variety of ways making an impact on the audience. It made the Storyteller’s audiences think deeply, reflecting on what they had heard for a long time.

His story began with a very naïve man, a Storyteller, who by being clever, determined and open minded met the best friends he would ever have. That, by showing love, care and dedication he found a home. Through his listening, respecting and contributing he became part of a community. A story that explained how to be a good neighbour, one that was respectful and listened to the people he shared the land with. A story about how he went on to advocate for better relationships with his own people sharing a better way of life for everyone. He always returned home to share his adventures with his friends and family. He traveled around the world and his stories explained the value in respecting boundaries and ownership and that everyone should have enough self respect to never take someone else’s story. His story taught his own people to reflect on themselves and through this act of reflection their own culture became stronger. “You take care of you”.