Taking Advantage of Stories
by Paul Chaffee
Truth be told, every issue of TIO is a celebration of interfaith story-telling. This month, though, we wanted to focus on the subject itself – telling stories – and the special power they have, particular when interfaith realities are addressed. Read through this issue and it becomes hard to deny that we become our stories, we understand who we are with the narratives we hear and create, tell and retell. Their subtle influences are worth understanding, particularly for anyone with interfaith sensibilities.
Who are you? “Well, I was conceived when my parents were studying Chinese in Berkeley, and by the time I was one we were in north China, in a town called …” Without that story (and the long version goes on forever!), I don’t know, much less understand who I am. As several contributors this month suggest, our stories wake us up to who we are, inform us as human beings, lead us into the decisions we make, and ground us in our communities.
Several articles this month are straightforward ‘true’ stories that knocked us over. The first two in the series are set in Pakistan; they both confront the tragic consequences of the India/Pakistan partition and the ugliness of extremist religion; at the same time, they show remarkable people from various faiths who thrive in the midst of oppression and violence, living out magnificent stories.
Some of this month’s authors use story as a theme to explore or a tool to enrich interfaith programming and activism. Still others, devoting full-time to interfaith storytelling, are bent on transforming our culture by returning to the values our religious/spiritual stories can convey so well, starting with children.
At the end, Ruth Broyde Sharone’s “Digital Storytelling” is amazing on the face of it: a Pakistani kid, suffering religious oppression, grows up to teach teenagers the movie-production tools built into smart phones, empowering them as interfaith change agents! Really?! Really. As compelling as the tale is, it raises basic questions about how we employ stories. Smart phone technology is a ‘miracle’ factor in Ruth’s report. One is left wondering if we need to find new ways to tell stories in order to unleash their inherent power to change the planet for goodness sake.
Header Photo: Pixabay