Are We Letting Baby Media Kill Grandmother Story?

The more I think about storytelling and explore ways of learning and understanding it, the more amazed I am at how deeply embedded story is in this life, and conversely, how deeply we are embedded in story; it really is the water we swim in.

I recently pondered the number of occupations that had story at the core and this is what I came up with.  

The obvious ones: novelist, memoirist, screen writer, journalist, playwright (and many other writers); movie makers, actors, storytellers and cartoonists.  Then there are the ones less overtly enmeshed: lawyers, health workers, psychologists, social workers, hairdressers, marketers, radio and tv content creators, and community development practitioners.   And of course there are whole industries producing thousands of ancillary occupations, all built upon story:  movies, theatre, TV, news, books, psychology and law, health.   I am sure there are more.

So how is this useful or relevant to us, mere mortals wanting to tell stories?  Well, another parallel line of thinking relates to our local theatre.  We live in a small town with a small 100 seat theatre, but it is a theatre complete, and puts on proper plays.  While the quality can vary, mostly it is great and there is an surprising depth of talent in the community for the dramatic arts, and no shortage of people for all sorts of roles, from on-stage to off.  

And that got me thinking how movies and television, which can be shown to everyone, repeatedly, reduce the opportunities for people to be dramatically expressive and creative.  Before movies, TV and radio,  people with drama in their bones had lots of chances to entertain, enchant and express themselves with stories - either their own or others. But now we can all march into a cinema, press a button in our loungeroom or scroll through our phone, and see, or hear, something amazing, magical and wonderful. 

I am not advocating turning back the clock; the tools of modernity, the ability to communicate through mass print, radio, television and movies are all incredibly useful to the human race, but not at the expense of person to person connection, and expression.  

Art in all its forms is self expression.  The movie makers, actors and creative artists involved in screen drama all experience, in one form or another a form of self expression.  So do writers and painters and dancers.  

There is a balance to be found between enjoying and being inspired by what is distributed by mass media, and supporting and throwing ourselves into our own creativity and self expression, our own common or garden, imperfect, local, flesh and blood storytelling in all its forms.  And of course we get better by doing, not just consuming.

Our modern tools have seen us throw the baby out with the bath water (or perhaps more accurately we have 'let the baby kill the grandmother', given it is the new smothering the old, rather than the good being tossed out with the bad).  The point I'm trying to make is that a core human value and practice has been - temporarily - forgotten.     

As the Dalai Lama says the purpose of life is to be happy.  And we are not happy without love, connection and belonging.   Or self expression.  And self expression, when truly nurtured, does all three of these things.

So finding, crafting and telling our own stories is a lost art that reclaims self expression and connects us to ourselves and each other. 

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