The oral tradition of storytelling is an ancient practice going back eons in time. Our ancestors, the cave dwellers, etched images on their cave walls to tell a story. The cave dwellers used the images to record information and to communicate thoughts, messages, warnings and narratives.
Generation after generation that followed have used storytelling as a means to communicate their people’s history, values and identity. The followers of spiritual masters like Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha employed the form to spread their own gospels and belief systems. For centuries the practice has been utilized by people of all races, nationalities and religion to pass on and share information about the past and the present.
While the flow of information eventually evolved into the written form, which the advent of early papermaking techniques and eventually the creation of the printing press facilitated. Despite the arrival of easily obtained books the exercise of oral storytelling still remains intact but perhaps without the same social significance.
One of my favorite memories as a child was sitting next to my grandfather, wide eyed and captivated, listening attentively as he spoke about his youthful days back in Ireland. The man, bordering on ninety years of age, could tell a story like no other. Every word that he spoke captured my imagination and excited me to my very core. He left me with a love of words and a penchant for telling a story. His storytelling was my only connection to my own past and helped shape my identity.
In today’s fast paced world communication forms have changed constantly. The computer age has made communication instantly available delivering every conceivable form of data with the flick of a push button on a hand held device small enough to pack away in your back pocket. Learning is now often singular and impersonal.
We have become smarter in some ways but at the same time, less connected to the story. It takes time, patience and creativity to tell a good story. Most of all, it is the intimacy of channelling information between generation and generation in real time that is sadly missing in our conversations. We should listen more closely to our elders when they speak and our elders should embrace their responsibilities with a renewed vigor.