13 June 2014

storytelling and magic - when they cry

As I was not able to present my The Heart of When They Cry panel at Anime NEXT, I have wanted to talk about stories. I touch on this a bit during the panel. 

Ever since we can remember, humans have told stories.

We tell stories about the night sky, about the stars and the moon. We tell stories about fierce warriors, saving their villages or destroying monsters or demonstrating some virtue that we want to emulate. We tell stories about wisdom and cunning, of survival and pride and falls.

We enshrine stories - either as a canon of "must read" literature, telling us something about ourselves, or as religious belief, or as entertainment. People who knew certain stories were historians, lorekeepers, bards, priests.

Stories are magic.

But stories can also be used to hurt: to demean, to ruin, to curse. "Telling stories" became a way to say "saying something that isn't true" - and lying, or speech that is not careful, has been reprimanded in many societies in many time periods.

 But sometimes, a factually incorrect story may be useful. And sometimes, a factually correct story may not give you enough truth of the experience.

For example: is it useful to programmers to refer to computers as people? ("Jill's acting up today" - "the modem doesn't want to work") Yes. Is it factually true? Perhaps not.

But does referring to blogging, or video, or writing as "typing on the computer" really bring the emotional state of things either? That blogging may be personal essays or Twitter a way to get in touch with loved ones fast? Speaking of love, why do we talk of love as both harmful, and the best thing in the world? And if we revere facts as so important, than why do many religious traditions - and poetry - speak in parables, in comparisons, in seemingly incoherent riddles?

Our stories aren't always neat, our stories seem contradictory. We speak of humans being akin to angels, and yet have stories about sin and disgrace. We have stories about cunning folk, about peasants becoming princes; yet in the same breath, we have stories about spies, soldiers, clergy, priests, wise folk; demons and monsters and the dangers in the forest or in ourselves. And yet sometimes, our stories are neat and clean. The hero gets the monster. The village is saved. The throne is secure. We want simplicity. We want things to be easy.

Humans are complicated.

And we have complicated feelings about ourselves. So our fears, our worst desires, destruction and death and corruption - we see these in stories. Our dreams and hopes? The same. We want to learn, to experience, to get away, depending on what we need at the time.

Stories are magic.

And with this magic, hopefully we can remember the best about ourselves. Life may be harsh, but perhaps we can find moments of connection and of beauty in it.

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