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I like a good story because unlike a report a story works using a human dynamic. Here’s a story I’ve told for years, so see what you think.
Long ago a revolutionary in a foreign land made frequently use of a large, well-run free library.
Immediately adjacent the library was the walled property of a powerful and wealthy leader, the sort of person the revolutionary was sworn to oppose. With each passing day the presence of privilege, wealth, and power alongside his ideal enraged him more and more. He felt obliged to do someway strike against entitled power as a blow in defense of the less favored, as himself. Daily studying the situation he never saw the powerful owner, but every day in the walled back garden there were two children, a young boy and girl playing in a corner by a small pond. Certain he could never get near the head of wealth and power to do it harm, the revolutionary saw these children of power as his way to redress wrongs by nullifying the future recipients of favor and power. To that end he discovered a place where he could secretly enter the garden and take action to correct the wrongs he vowed to fight. Determined, he watched and waited, carefully studying patterns and situation before making his move. The day came.
He dropped into the garden as the children played. Creeping slowly forward he heard the innocent laughter of playful children with small hands and delicate necks. The revolutionary was suddenly filled with rage that these children had luxury when others had only poverty. In an angry burst he rushed forward to quickly overcome the startled children before happily snapping the neck of each in an act of lasting defiance of favor and power they embodied. He was about to make his escape when a cry came from the house. The gardener, cook, and other servants caught him before he was able to get over the wall. He was held, bound and helpless to await the powerful owner. Quite ordinary, like someone who spent his days indoors looking at numbers, the owner looked on the scene of dead children and bound captive with sad eyes. The revolutionary waited for his moment to shout revenge. Unbelieving, the owner shook his head to ask “Why/” Before the revolutionary could deliver his cry the owner repeated. “Why? Why did you kill the librarian’s children? They come each day to play in the garden. Why would you harm them?” Silent, the revolutionary had no answer for a question he never thought existed.
What do you think? If not an excellent story it’s at least a decent one built around the passions and understandings of human kind.
My liking of stories rises in part from a desire to tell them well. Someone once asked me if I’d write up some stories for them. I’ve been doing this a long time (if you want a target painted on your back do Storytelling and Poetry in Junior High Speech competition). Many good stories don’t type well. They need voice to modulate, play, hint, and add what print cannot. Some things need to be heard. It is both more enjoyable and meaningful when voice with all its dynamic is added. We know this (or should if texting hasn’t slaughtered oral tradition) but still encounter those who’ll hand you a postcard paper and ask for an account of a symphony. Say yes but use the card for some other purpose because you sure won’t get it to hold even a lark’s song.
One benefit of using a story is stories don’t pretend to be otherwise. A story is a tale, an account. A report, analysis, or review in many cases is a story (narrative) pretending to be of higher worth or standard. I can highlight this with a story from my past.
Loving (when in the mood) a decent story I was telling about some of my earlier-in-life struggles with Sister Mary Alice Stormtrooper who had the challenge trying to get twelve year old Harry to focus. My mind ranging all over, I wasn’t cooperative about math problems or sentence diagrams. Not knowing when Sister Stormtroop would apprehend me, I was constantly on alert. I was telling alertness anecdotes when the voice of a listener injected with severe reproach for Stormtrooper crushing my little spirit. (The objector much a version of Stormtrooper herself.) Oh how the objector lamented the cruelty of a strict Catholic education crushing my spirit. -- Was she serious? I felt, sadly, she was and doing so let her narrative stand as a true analysis and a guide forward to a story where little Harry would have a happier middle and ending graced with the freedom of more frittering.
Already a naturally adept fritterer, I hardly needed more of that. I required (it worked for me) some degree of consistent forceful discipline to steer and keep me on track. Sister Stormy Rain on My Parade was the “tyrant” I needed. I must have had some inclination or ability, but with Nuns like the Stormtrooper breathing down my back I was reading at college freshman level in Grade Seven. But, put that aside along with all the other theories of education. Think simple. In education the less you expect the less you’re apt to get. But for me the consequences of being bullied at an early age by stern, facially hairy, spinsterish types had other results. In the first place I didn’t need protection from Nuns who were doing me no harm. I didn’t melt or shrivel up. What I did was figure out how to cope, get along with them, and to get around them. How else do we explain the emergence of a devious but socially harmless end result such as me? The fixers-complainers who’d say I should have been protected from disciplinary Nuns don’t, as I see it, think much of us other than feed us mush to prepare us for a life of mush fed mushiness. Deliver Me from the Fixers, O Lord!