“Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth…It’s no coincidence that Jesus taught almost entirely by telling stories, simple stories dealing with the stuff of life familiar to the Jews of his day. Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.”
~Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
:: The Power of Story @ Aeon. [This article dovetails quite nicely with what I’ve been experiencing with Levi and The Lost Tools of Writing. Stories, and conversations about stories, build empathy as well as wisdom.]
We argue with stories, internally or out loud. We talk back. We praise. We denounce. Every story is the beginning of a conversation, with ourselves as well as with others.
One lesson about the 1938 Kristallnacht attacks delves into the historical narrative, describing how Nazis burned synagogues, smashed windows and looted Jewish shops while most ordinary Germans just watched. This real-life story prompts class discussion that touches on what it means to be a bystander; someone who does nothing while someone else gets hurt. Kids consider how they might have reacted when Jewish people were persecuted under Nazi rule, but they’re also thinking about similar matters closer to home, such as whether they should stand up for a friend who’s being badmouthed. When students explore the significance of stories in this way, their thoughts and choices shift measurably. Children who complete the Facing History curriculum show more empathy and concern for others, and they are more likely than controls to intervene when other students are bullied.
[T]hese books live in us, bring life to us, much in the way special friendships do. Some are ancient and wise, while others are young and energetic; some make our hearts ache with sadness, while others lift our hearts with laughter. In the end, they are a lens through which all of us can look at life, at its joys and sorrows and everything in between; and though the image is simple enough for young eyes to see, it is also lovely enough to last a lifetime.
The fairy tales of childhood also provide plenty of rich character training. They are full of heroes and heroines who endure suffering with meekness, cleverness, perseverance, courage and grace. It is the nature of a child to try on the characters they are reading about, just as they model themselves according to the characters they costume themselves with when playing “dress up.” In their mind, they are wondering how they will handle the wicked stepmother, whether their courage will hold when they face the fire-breathing dragon, or how they might outwit the devious giants of their fairy stories.
:: Watership Down author Richard Adams: I just can’t do humans @ The Guardian. [This is one of my favorite novels!]
Adams was 52 and working for the civil service when his daughters began pleading with him to tell them a story on the drive to school. “I had been put on the spot and I started off, ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.’ And I just took it on from there.” Extraordinarily, he had never written a word of fiction before, but once he’d seen the story through to the end, his daughters said it was “too good to waste, Daddy, you ought to write that down”.
What stories are you and your children reading this week?