“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
― Philip Pullman
People very often miss the beauty of the joy and wonder of story has in everyday life. We are beings that thrive and live on the essence of story. It is our life’s staple food. We tell stories more often than we both realize and give ourselves credit for. All it needs is the right trigger: What happened?
Closing Open Questions
The six valuable questions we learned in our English class to some degree get lost in conversation. I think the only one that is used most appropriately (unintentionally might I add) is “What”? The most unsettling conversation I have both seen and been in are the ones where open questions have to be thought of in order to get the person saying something! Yes an expression of lack of desire can be a huge deal breaker when it comes to straight answers. The sad thing is the recipient giving off these vibes does not realize it a lot of the time. Body language is what they become completely oblivious of. This leaves you wondering if you in some way are at fault. It can at times feel like a dagger piercing right through you with each attempt to get something out of them other than, “Fine, ” and “Good.” You start asking yourself some of these open questions:
When did I get this boring?
Why is sh/e not in a good mood today?
Where is their mind right now?
How can I change this atmosphere?
Who can help me in this situation?
What would they do if they were in it right now?
The Mystery The Open Book
Have you ever been around those people whom you feel there is nothing you do not know? I remember in my mini Bible school course, literally on our first day, I sat down with a student who spilled pretty much all her guts out in front of me after sitting down for about 5 minutes! I was thinking that most of the info should only be disclosed after knowing each other for at least 2-3 weeks. You know, build up to those sensitive and intense pieces of her life. Then I realized that it was in her personality. Strangely enough, when I spoke to new students the next year, since I was now staff, some of them confirmed my theory. Glad you asked. It was the fact that it was more or less a cultural thing. I first thought it was family culture until I found out that it stretched much farther than that. Then there are those friends who lie on the other side of the coin. The side I described above: the reserved.
How do you treat open books? Do you take advantage of their carefree attitude? Do you encourage it even more? Are you not concerned of possible pain that could rise from too much information? These people will need to learn the art of guiding their thoughts in order to communicate clearly because it is very easy to mix up two or more feelings in the same story, especially when they are two completely different ones only to them.
“Funny how a beautiful song could tell such a sad story”
― Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key
Upon reading that some may come to mind. Keep them there if that is the case. We are approaching Valentine’s Day and it would seem appropriate if the song/s that came up was/were about love. True this week is more of a love week but who says that has to be the only thing impacting you as far as music is concerned? Surely an adventure you embarked on that you thoroughly enjoyed is what brings you to memory lane. What would really be amazing is a song that kept playing during your stay as if it were your theme song for the holiday/field trip/business trip. Were you alone? Were you with friends or a friend’s family? Are you the person who wishes they could experience what I just described? My trips to Slovakia, Faroe Islands, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Germany were amazing. There were a lot of thrilling experiences. Funny enough Mika’s Relax (Take It Easy) was my theme song during the two years I was in Europe.
“…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.”
― Rabih Alameddine, The Hakawati
Our Reflection In Movies
I do not think I have ever had a friend who did not like a movie because one or more characters experience very closely what happened to him or her. I have, however, met friends who could relate to characters in some movies, others feel for them. In some ways I have felt as heedlessly ridiculous as Danger in Million Dollar Baby. After being comforted by his trainer about asking stupid questions, he asks about a water bottle, “How’d you get all the ice in here through this little tiny hole?” I will not box myself in a crowd by saying we have all been there before, I will be honest, if I am the only one then I am the only one. Other times I feel like Captain America in The Avengers calling all the shots in battle, for most of my scholastic life I have felt that way, often not by choice. In the heart of movies are stories. That is why no matter how many times we have heard them before we can never tire of a very good story. I wonder if it is the same reason we relate to some movies so well, some times to the point it scares us?
What Story Are You Telling?
No I do not mean this in the deep philosophical sense but rather in the literal sense. Every time you are asked the appropriate question at the right time, you have a story to tell. If you were hurt, “What happened?” can mean the difference between healing and prolonged pain. If you were impacted by someone you cannot stop talking about, “Who is/was this person?” can influence what the asker perceives of them. It all comes down to how you tell the story. I have been with people who tell the wrong story. Meaning they have the wrong motives. Two reasons for the wrong motive a) they want to be or feel pitied and b) they want to fabricate an event to a certain extent in order to gain support. This does not help them in any way whatsoever. A speaker once said, “You delay your prosperity when you tell your story for the purpose being pitied.” It is perfectly fine to get your thoughts out and let the weight off your chest in the beginning, but build to an ending where you, the hero, emerge victorious or at least have a plan for getting there. Whenever you tell your story the most important thing to do is always leave the listener with a positive perception of you. The key factor about the listener is that you choose them.
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. Bryant H. McGill
The Listening Challenge
People talk about reading between the lines. That is actually quite an art. When it comes to enjoying stand-up comedies, of course the object of the show from the audience’s perspective is to listen. You are literally listening to one person. What about your best friend? Your spouse? Coworker? Even a stranger has a voice. Everyone has something deep within them that they are bursting to communicate, except it has to be with the right person at the right time. My Greenlandic friend told me I was a good listener even though I listened to her for literally less than a minute. At that time all she needed was to be heard. It is that simple (because it is not complicated) but not always that easy. This is your undivided attention, coupled with uninterrupted, attentive listening, not a two-second quicky that can be solved in just as short a time.
Story is built in the very core of all that we are. It is one of the most inspirational aspects about us. It is what separates us from the rest of creation. Tears, laughter, love, celebration, mystery, are all encounters we have when story meets people. When I mentioned earlier how we should not tell stories to be pitied I excluded counseling and psychology sessions because that is a whole different thing. On that note gossiping does not fill the heart with the fulfillment that comes from a beautiful story. Children yearn for the glory of story. Even made up stories told the right way with the right atmosphere make that much of a difference. The only thing every story needs-whether fiction or true- ultimately, is a good storyteller.
“Tell the story that’s been growing in your heart, the characters you can’t keep out of your head, the tale story that speaks to you, that pops into your head during your daily commute, that wakes you up in the morning.”
― Jennifer Weiner