By Susan K. Coti
Storytelling is the oldest art form in the history of mankind. It originated as a way to make sense of the world and to guide human behavior. The ancient myths illustrate this point along with the earliest cave paintings that documented important events in people’s lives. It grew to include fairy tales, folktales and stories that serve the purpose of pure entertainment. Stories are everywhere including television commercials!
The stories I tell are chosen for their power to inspire. As I ponder this issue’s theme of “Awakening Humanity,” I see two aspects at work: humanity already in the throes of awakening and then another, the need for humanity to awaken through deeds that are honorable and good. Josephine Tey, in her book The Daughter of Time, writes: “the sorrows of humanity are no one’s sorrows, as newspaper readers long ago found out. A frisson of horror may go down one’s spine at wholesale destruction but one’s heart stays unmoved. A thousand people drowned in floods in China are news; a solitary child drowned in a pond is tragedy.” Is humanity that hard to move, to awaken?
I believe that in the heart of everyone is a drive, even if unconscious, to be a piece of something grand, big and whole. We are not islands that are mere tips of something deeper below. We are that which is deep and mysterious, and awakening is part of our mission as human beings.
The stories I tell are chosen to inspire the deep and mysterious drive toward this belonging, toward this wholeness, and I hope they may help us to become more loving along the way. This is not to say that all my stories are serious, spiritual tales. I do not take myself that seriously. I love to laugh and inject that humor and playfulness into some of my stories. My repertoire is large: folktales, myths, literary tales and personal stories. They are geared largely toward adults and families with older children, about ten years old and up. Teenagers are particularly fascinated with stories that appeal to the hero/heroine, romance and quests.
Storytelling performance is for everyone, and its resurgence is proof. A lot of storytelling is showing up at fringe festivals in cities all over the world, even right here in D.C. through Speakeasy, an organization that promotes true, personal stories and encourages everyday people to come to the stage to perform. My brand of storytelling trends toward the traditional. I feel very connected to these tales and enjoy sharing them with others. Some of my personal stories are written in such a way that they sound like old tales.
To me, one of the most intriguing things about storytelling is that it is a visual experience, not so much an auditory one. The listener “sees” the story unfold in the mind as a movie except the film is produced for the listener’s unique perspective so that the story is as much an individual experience as a communal one. A good story told well can have transformative effects for everyone who listens. Stories unite people and provide an experience that helps to awaken the humanity in all of us. Perhaps I could share a tale or two with you one day!