There should always be room for stories. They speak to us about ourselves, they lend encouragement, they whisper to us in the dark reminding us about our flaws, they allow us to soar, and bring us hope. Stories are a way for the child to easily understand important lessons, and for adults to be reminded of them. In “western” civilization we have forgotten their power because we, like the magpies, are attracted but the bright, the shiny, and the glittering nature of the modern world. What kid needs a storybook when we can give them a DVD or computer game? The modern view would be that movies are the best way to tell a story. Words and pictures are all neatly boxed up and seared into our child’s brain without the need for parental interaction. But as I once explained to someone who always argues that film is superior to book, it took my grandmother two weeks to read Oliver Twist to me as a ten year old, it took me an hour and a half to watch the movie. Which do you think was the more exciting, which do you think allowed me to bond with a family member, How much better do you think the pictures in my head were? What dreams do we give them when we take the modern path?
Reading is, theoretically, a staple in school so we don’t have to worry right? But where my soul truly cries isn’t that the art of picking up a book, not a kindle, but a real papery book is dying, but rather because the act of reading to children is almost gone. Children should be encouraged to read to their parents it’s true. Hopefully in doing so we build up their self confidence and they will choose another book then another instead of the television or the game console But the act of reading to a child is a different dynamic. In reading to we are giving a very precious gift. Being told a story allows the child to close their eyes and visualize, to hear the change in the voices, the child for a brief while can escape the everyday and mechanical, and instead soar through the skies or sail the seven seas. They can dream and learn.
In literature the hero doesn’t always win. The prettiest girl isn’t always the one who gets Prince Charming. We are not always guaranteed a happy ending or even an ending at all. There are stories for all of us and not just the “beautiful people Hollywood uses as gloss. In the movies ugly becomes beautiful because beauty is all that is to be desired. Don’t believe me? Find me an ugly female movie star in the leading role. In real stories the maiden may be less beautiful than the princess but she still finds her place in the world. The hero doesn’t always have to win the day. Instead he may discover that to struggle and loose is just as important as always coming out on top, and definitely more truthful. Stories, books, fairy tales, all show us the bits which Hollywood deems “bad for the box office takings” which is after all what it’s all about. In a book the hero very rarely has perfect hair when he’s fighting that dragon. In short the parallel between story as it is meant to be and life can be shown and learned from. Which is why we have stories in the first place.
I remember back a few years ago when I was undergoing therapy. Every day we would deal with peoples’ issues, real issues that had nearly broken their lives, and there would sometimes be a disconnect in understanding. Over the weeks I became something of a joke because I would always translate my problems back to some aspect of the garden. I would find a little story about a plant or a way of gardening that explained clearly how I was feeling or what I understood. It must have worked. People tended not to have to ask for explanations because they could see what I was getting it. Stories can heal the mind. They helped to heal mine. So now I will always be the “guy who talks in plants” which is cool. Several of my fellow patients admitted that the stories helped them too. In the end we communicated clearer in stories than we did in normal speech, healed faster, and stayed healthier.
Stories have power. The “unsophisticated” understand it and use it. We are the ones who when the electricity fails can still teach our children, can still remember the past and acknowledge the powerful skills of our ancestors. We can help a new generation grow wonderfully. We can allow them to dream and explore the world in ways that the modern world closes down.
All the dreams and magic will only leave this world when finally society forgets to open its mouth and let words live and breath in a child’s mind. So repeat after me….. “Once upon a time, o best beloved, when the world was young and you were even younger……..” ……….Now fly!