A story that I do not want to sell
Yesterday a friend who'd just returned from a cross country motorcycle expedition shared many stories with us. One of them was about a couple who settled in a tribal hamlet twenty five years ago. And they...
Well, I am not going to tell you the story.
By telling you the story in almost the same manner it was told to me -- fast paced, information packed with one or two punch lines, all within a minute -- I would be doing a disservice to the subject of the story, to myself and to you, the reader/listener.
When I suggested this to my friend, he said that his first version is only a hook (he used to be a radio DJ). Narrated in any other way, he said, it would get boring.
Yeah, boring. That is the underlying fear. Boring would lead to losing the audience. What we learn on the job, we take as a life lesson -- not to tell a story in any other manner than in sound bites.
Listening to him about the couple who settled in a tribal village, I felt like I was listening to an amazing melody by Ilayaraja in fast forward, or like listening to a poem by Pavi sung by a rapper, or like glancing at the Grand Canyon while speeding in a car at 90 miles per hour ... you get the drift.
Everyone is doing it: DJs, VJs, Newsreaders, Reporters, Bloggers, PR reps, Tourists, Neighbors, me and you. But we blame only corporate salespersons and politicians -- sadly, we've all become used car salespersons.
It is said that we become the stories that we tell among ourselves. This might have been true before we became salespersons. For a few decades now, we seem to have become numb to the stories that we tell among ourselves. So then stories have become shorter and crisper -- to the length of a tweet. We are so committed to telling a story to the point, and all that finally remains is a dimensionless point.
There is no point in concentrating on a single point. The meaning of a point arises from meandering between the point and its natural circumference. It is within that arena, somewhere, my story becomes yours. Without the arena, the point acquires the characteristics of a bullet (hence we aptly call them bullet points). The bullet point was invented, I suppose, to cut through all the competing attractions and pierce straight into the reader's mind. Perhaps after entering, it burns a hole and leaves the mind as quickly.
I have experienced it now many times in the last three years. We have had dozens of visitors to our farm. In wanting to not lose the audience, not leave out any information, not let them assume something incorrect, I used to do my fast paced salesman narration while giving a farm tour. It is as if subconsciously I wanted them to become natural farmers and adopt a sustainable life style -- all before they walked out of our gate. This can never be detected by looking at what I was saying -- but once you look at the pace and the amount of information, you'd know it.
So then, similar to the Slow Food Movement, maybe we need a Slow Story Movement, where more time is allotted to the pauses, the "silent bites" that allow the fiber, flavor, texture, contours, twists and turns, nooks and crannies of the story to be gradually absorbed by the mind and the heart. Habits die hard, you see, so I couldn't help but invent a new phrase that tries to pack a lot of reference.
Not long ago, many stories used to begin with the phrase, "Once upon a time...," thereby expanding the listeners' mind into a vast time and space and inviting them to see through a wide angle lens. The zooming can be done later after a lot of panning. This allows the listener to see and feel the story from a larger context. Finding oneself within the larger context, the listener could see how he is related into the story, can see its relevance to him and at that point, the story becomes his story too. Now he can retell it by infusing it with his own spirit and content. This is how I suppose we became the stories we told ourselves. The campfires we lit from stone-age until recently were totally worth it.
At this moment, I am very tempted to list a number of points (in bullets, of course) that suggest different ideas to initiate a Slow Story Movement. I feel impatient and do not trust that you will have the time to mull over this article, and in your way, at your own pace, become part of the movement. I am not going to give in this time.
I hope you do not hurry to tweet this article if you feel like sharing it but figure out how to gently, slowly share it over home made cookies and filter coffee.
This story is printed here with permission from the author. Ragunath Padmanabhan and his wife Nisha Srinivasan share updates on natural farming and holistic living at Greenlocal.org -- their "experiment in laying a new path on an old road that leads to simplicity, sustainability and, dare we say, spirituality."
You will relive your childhood.Childhood is the time to enjoy stories.
“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they
are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
i was just reading the title but came to read on until i finished the whole thing, slowly of course! yes the fast pace in which we live our lives has definitely taken away the most important aspect of what living is, the savoring of new-found experiences in its minutest details! because of rush we lose the ability to feel. what is there to tell then? what makes one's experience different from the other except the individually felt details that go with it. and telling experiences/stories in its "bullet-type" form makes one's story a ho-humm. anyone listening there?
Thank you, Ragunath, for this reminder to slow down, listen and share.
And thank you to Kristin (in the comments) for sharing her TED talk audition, which truly links slow stories and human love and compassion. You truly illustrate in your life the art of listening, paying attention, loving and acknowledging the tellers; you are growing the most incredible story collection ever.
Thank you so much for the reminder to slow down, enjoy the coffee and cookies, look into the eyes of the listener, answer the questions that arise on both sides of the conversational story. If we can only keep to the one story without diverting ourselves with tangents of other stories told too fleetingly to take hold and make a difference in the weaving of our lives and stories as sentient beings on this planet. It is so important at this time in our history of human development that we ground ourselves with each other and our slow, meaning filled stories so we can weather the challenging transformations that are taking place all over the world. A 'slow story movement' would allow us time to breathe. NPR's "The Story" is one of the best examples of this: deep, appreciative listening and thoughtful questions to draw out more meaning. lovely.
My nieces love hearing stories from the past from my parents. This brings them closer together and my nieces learn about their ancestors and feel connected to a collective past. Sometimes I participate in the telling of the stories because I can learn something new or I can add to the story. This storytelling generates questions from my nieces and is a wonderful bedtime tradition.
While telling a story properly, it is the rich descriptive language and then the pause that captivates the listener and hooks them for the next turn in the story. My kids prefer the telling of a bedtime tale over reading one and I love to watch their eyes grow wide while I pause and they squirm with anticipation!
I found myself slowly reading your story. The title itself was an invitation to the readers to "slow down" and inhale the words, deeply. Sometimes I feel like everyone is talking, but no one is listening. I will promote the "slow story" idea by not only sharing my own stories, but "really" listening to others.
Slow Story. Slow Music.
Ben Mackenzie wrote an original song for ABC4All, "Lend a Heand"
The composer of the music that goes with the lyrics deliberately put in as many "healing signals" for the brain as anyone listens to this song as possible. Further, at the end, there are 20 seconds of silence during which it is possible to contemplate how you would like to lend a hand.
"Lend a Hand" http://abc4all.net/lah.htm
Is this not a great story?
Burton Danet, Ph.D., Rejuvenated Facilitator, Clinical Psychologist (retired), Co-Founder, ABC4All Portal4Relief
MANDATED ACTION for What The World Needs Now: The FOREVER Campaign for Global Humanitarian Relief (FCGHR) - Every day is GHRDTM
P. O. Box 1624, Manhattan Beach, CA 90267-1624 USA
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As a Professional Storyteller who travels the world sharing Slow stories not sound bites, I see and feel the power of the "slow story" in villages, towns and cities. One of the stories I strive to share daily is connecting whether through my literacy volunteer project in Belize where I travel village to village collecting and sharing and teaching the teachers their own indigenous stories (many of which were banned from sharing in schools) or sharing Free Hugs with strangers. We are desperate to connect. People tell me the most intimate details of their lives in the moment of a FREE HUG, it is truly heart expanding. I was fortunate to be chosen by TED Talks in their current Worldwide Talent Search to share about this; here is the short 5 minute story which will hopefully be chosen to be a 20 minute Story, a Slow Story. :) http://talentsearch.ted.com...[Hide Full Comment]
Great observation! Thanks for sharing your experience with us all. And did you notice I used all the letters to make complete words as I type this? It takes longer, but you are worth the extra time. :-)
On Jul 16, 2012 Colin wrote:
I read for the journey so taking me along as fast as possible rather defeats the object. I rather like the idea of someone extolling the virtues of countrylife and sustainable living by talking at breakneck speed though. I can write fast or slow, depending what the needs of the story are. Mostly I write slow.
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