Dedicated to the Hands of the Cause of God

Dedicated to the Hands of the Cause of God
ABDU'L-BAHA IN LINCOLN PARK, CHICAGO, 1912 (COURTESY BAHA'I NATIONAL ARCHIVES, WILMETTE)

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Art of Storytelling by Kiser Barnes



Extracts on the Art of Storytelling - A compilation prepared for the presentation, “The Art of Storytelling”, by Mr. Kiser Barnes, 3 November 2006.


1. DRESSING TRUTH IN STORY:  “Truth, naked and cold, had been turned away from every door in the village.  Her nakedness frightened the people.  When Parable found her she was huddled in a corner, shivering and hungry.  Taking pity on her, Parable gathered her up and took her home.  There she dressed Truth in story, warmed her and sent her out again.  Clothed in story, Truth knocked again at the villagers’ doors and was readily welcomed into the people’s houses.  They invited her to eat at their table and warm herself by their fire.”  –  Annette Simmons, The Story Factor, (Perseus Publishing, Cambridge 2001) p.27.  See also the version, “Truth in Gay Clothes”, A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, (Nathan Ausubel Crown Publishers, New York 1948) p.13

2.  “For centuries stories and metaphors have been used to convey a message.  Religious books are filled with analogies, metaphors and stories …  They all convey teachings in an indirect way, to translate difficult ideas into tangible ones.  The wise men and women of villages have used metaphors and stories to answer a question or explain a difficult matter for centuries.  They were part of an oral culture in which the elderly had an opportunity to tell stories and share wisdom. … Most of the stories … had a lesson latent in them … This was also the medium the elders used to pass on customs and norms to the youth.”  –  Arthur Rowshan, Telling Tales (OneWorld, Oxford 1997) p.20

3. “Whatsoever proceeded from the tongue of the Son was revealed in parables, whilst He Who proclaimeth the Truth in this Day speaketh without them.”  –  Bahá’u’lláh, Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p.62
 
4. “Divine things are too deep to be expressed by common words.  The heavenly teachings are expressed in parable in order to be understood and preserved for ages to come.  When the spiritually minded dive deeply into the ocean of their meaning they bring to the surface the pearls of their inner significance.”  –  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p.80

5. “O ye beloved of God!  Repose not yourselves on your couches, nay bestir yourselves as soon as ye recognize your Lord, the Creator, and hear of the things which have befallen Him, and hasten to His assistance.  Unloose your tongues, and proclaim unceasingly His Cause.  This shall be better for you than all the treasures of the past and of the future, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth.”  –  Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 330

6. “Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible.  The Great Being saith: “One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence both exert is manifest in the world.  Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of true understanding and nobility.  And likewise He saith: One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison.  It behoveth a prudent man of wisdom to speak with utmost leniency and forbearance so that the sweetness of his words may induce everyone to attain that which befitteth man’s station”  –  Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 172,173

7. “Say: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation.  As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure.  As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets.”  –  Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pp. 175-76

8. “With the Dawn-Breakers in your possession you could also arrange interesting stories about the early days of the movement … There are also stories about the life of Christ, Muhammad and the other Prophets which if told ... will break down any religious prejudice ... Such stories regarding the life of different Prophets together with Their sayings will also be useful to better understand the literature of the Cause for there is constant reference to them.”  –  Shoghi Effendi, cited in the compilation Bahá’í Education, p.53

9. “What you could do, is to use your stories to become a source of inspiration and guidance for those who read them … With such means at your disposal you can spread the spirit and teachings of the Cause.”  –  Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Art, p.15

10. “Stories and metaphors can bypass the clumsiness of the everyday language we use when we try to teach something in a logical and left-brain fashion.  It is said that Albert Einstein was once approached by a mother for advice.  She complained that her son was not very successful at learning science.  “Tell him stories,” replied the great scientist.  “But sir, he is not good at science,” said the mother.  Einstein repeated his advice.  “Tell him stories.” ” –  Arthur Rowshan, Telling Tales (OneWorld, Oxford 1997) xi

11. “No doubt the power of prayer is very great, yet consultation with experts is enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh.”  –  Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 48

12. “Whatever is necessary for the refinement of the children’s character can be best explained through fables, examples, animal stories, parables, and narratives – all geared to the capacity, understanding, and perception of the children … With the utmost love and affection, the parents can gather their children together and teach them the essential moral points, clothed in the form of parables …” –  Ali-Akbar Furutan, Mothers, Fathers and Children, (George Ronald, Oxford 1980) p. 256

13. “Lewis Carroll once called stories “love gifts”.  It was an apt description, for telling a story is indeed, giving a gift.  Storytelling brings to the listeners heightened awareness, a sense of wonder, of mystery, of reverence for life.  This nurturing of the spirit self comes first.  It is the primary purpose of storytelling, and all other uses and effects are secondary.”  –  Augusta Baker & Ellen Green, Storytelling, Art and Technique, (Bowker Co. New York 1977) p.17

14. “Storytelling is an art and like all arts, it requires training and experience.  However, anyone who is willing to take the time to find the right story and learn it well, and who has a sincere desire to share enjoyment of the story, can be a successful storyteller.  A good part of our daily conversation is composed of stories, incidents, and anecdotes, for we are all storytellers … we are … sharing our experiences and emotions” – Augusta Baker & Ellen Green, Storytelling, Art and Technique, (Bowker Co., New York) p. 40

15. “Because there is a natural storytelling urge and ability in all human beings, even just a little nurturing of this impulse can bring about astonishing and delightful results … one of the most useful guiding principles is to style their language and imagery to the prevailing mood of whomever may be listening … Whatever efforts you made to retell a great story by following the inner picture of the story with your mind’s eye, and perhaps casting the story in fresh language … will bring out your creativity … Stories awaken a sense of movement and colour and design that helps the conscious mind to contact the essence of a scene or character.”  –  Nancy Mellon, The Art of Storytelling, (Element Books, Rockport, Mass. 1992 pp. 172-178)


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