Affirming the life and stories of the storyteller

by Geoff Hall on September 5, 2011

The oldest story ever told is that of Creation. Not from a book, but orally by the community storyteller. The gathering of the community was the place not just of eating, drinking and discussing the issues of the day, but to hear the big story about life; identity, meaning, purpose and communion. Storytelling is an act of Communion.

The first time someone heard the stories of Creation wasn’t from a Book written by Moses, but around the camp fire.

This story of origins wasn’t told by scientists, accountants or bureaucrats, but by someone whose role in the community was to tell and retell this epic story. (The story wasn’t filtered by so-called objectivity, economic necessity nor standardised modes of communication, along with the relevant health and safety regulations. It is notable that in written-form we have recorded both the Cosmic scope in the narrative followed by the more intimate, Personal story of the first community.

Imagine a community gathered under the stars, sharing food; stories of the day’s events, of hopes and aspirations. Imagine the Storyteller, standing up to perform this great account, passed down through generations and transmitted again to capture the imagination of those gathered, to help them understand who they are, their destiny, their call to look after the land, the water, the animals, each other!

The work of the storyteller was to help the community re-imagine these things, to connect the past with the present and thus form the future with meaning and purpose, to affirm ones identity in community and as a person coupled to the greatest of all story arcs! Once the past is lost from sight, despair for the future takes over.

What then of today? Where does the storyteller fit into the great Technological Society, a society that is standardised, bureaucratised and sadly marginalised? How do we understand identity, meaning and purpose in this brand of ‘advanced’ society? How do we understand our calling to care for Creation in a Technological Society wherein the only thing which appears ‘efficient’ is the means of consumption?


The Story of Origins was neither standardised nor bureaucratised. The Story of Origins was indwelt by the listeners, their imagination engaged not as a means of escape, but of connection with present reality and reconnection with the past. The false claim for Science’s neutrality – of verifiable knowledge – was not the governing principle for this story. Belief was and is the basis of all knowledge. Every story which helps us relive our origins and find meaning at the sharp end of NOW, is not monitored by the bureaucrat, but transmitted by the storyteller. We engage through belief, we re-imagine through belief, we (re)shape the future through…belief! Storytelling for both teller and listener was and is a spiritual experience.


In Wim Wenders’ film ‘Wings of Desire’, we hear these words

Once mankind loses its storyteller, it will also lose its childhood.

Childhood is the ability to imagine, to play, to open up Creation in all its extravagant beauty and awe and find a place to dwell. If we lose the storyteller, we lose our ability to re-imagine the possibilities that this rich landscape provides; our capability for vision, for change, for humanity and freedom is diminished. Our personal imagining becomes distorted; our self-aggrandised musings lose touch with reality, as we are unable to discover a connection with and vision for, community.


Storytellers are in need of our support, our encouragement, our resources to help them sustain their lives in a way which the scientist, accountant or bureaucrat can’t. Storytellers are in need of our support, to help them sustain our lives in a way in which the scientist, accountant or bureaucrat can’t!


The agéd storyteller in ‘Wings of Desire’ says this,


Tell me, muse, the storyteller, he who has been thrust to the edge of the world…

with time those who listened to me became my readers.

They no longer sit in a circle, but apart and one doesn’t know anything about the other.


The next Tree House on Wednesday, September 28th is looking at…you guessed it…storytelling. I’ll be trying through the next few weeks to unpack this theme, this calling for life and the community, for humanity and freedom.


Peace and Love,



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