Stories have played a major role in all our lives. When we were small children we looked forward to bedtime when we would hear a story from a parent. If we were not so lucky, we would hear a story at school. Those of us who went to Sunday school heard stories from the Bible that were meant to educate us, but often scared us into submission. Sadly the different layers of the Bible stories are hardly ever explained to us. Emanuel Swedenborg provided interesting spiritual explanations of various Bible stories. Refer to my blog for a link to the website.
Another fascinating website that sheds a different light on the hidden meanings of the stories in the Bible is one where the author claims that none of the stories in the Bible are real or actually happened. Refer to my blog for a link to the website.
And by the way, it is not a sin to read these websites and then decide for yourself what you want to believe. God gave you a mind so that you can use it to decide what is good for you. Remember that what is good for you is not necessarily good for other people, and it is not for us to judge one another.
We all grew up with the tales of the brothers Grimm. Those tales are seen today as fairytales for children, but they were originally meant for adults because each one of them contain a lesson that is much deeper than what a child would hear. Each one of these tales is a metaphor that explains a facet of life.
And of course we are told stories every day on television. The soap operas are not real at all, but for some people they are a window into the lives of an imagined family. There are also various series that make characters familiar to us and we learn what to expect of the characters, like the heroes in science fiction or action movies. We all have our favourite actors and actresses, because they are masters at weaving a web that we want to believe. Sometimes these soap operas are used for edutainment (a combination of education and entertainment) to convey important information on health or civil issues, and this is more powerful than for example providing written material to people that have difficulty reading, or providing verbal warnings to people that did not have the good sense to heed such warnings.
Stories are part of many different traditions. The stories of the Grimm brothers and comic characters such as Asterix and Tintin originated in Europe.
There are also the tales of the Arabian nights that reflect ancient life in the Middle East. The Arabian Nights is a collection of Persian, Arab and Indian folk tales that were handed down through the centuries. Legend has it that a beautiful lady called Scheherazade had to tell a murderous prince a story each night to prevent the prince from killing her. The result is a beautiful collection of stories including the famous ones about Sinbad the sailor and Aladdin.
The Hassidic Jews have their own traditional stories. One of the disciples of the great Rabbi Baal Shem Tov was lame. One day, this disciple was asked to tell a story about his master. He began to tell how the Baal Shem Tov used to leap and dance when he prayed. The disciple became so engrossed in his story that he stood up, and began to leap and dance as his master used to. At that moment, he was cured of his lameness, and became completely healthy. There is a beautiful story called Let the story choose me that explains the healing value of stories. Refer to my blog for a link to the website.
On the African continent stories often feature talking animals that convey important lessons in life. Refer to my blog for a link to a website with examples of these tales.
Why are stories so important to us? We use stories to share experiences, understand each other and create a sense of community. Parents use stories to bond with their children. Sages use stories to convey important life lessons and explain customs and values. People express wisdom by means of a story. Stories are used to break down barriers within and between groups.
Most stories have some entertainment or educational value. The advent of the internet has brought us the genre of urban myths. People’s need to believe things is often proven by the circulation of the most absurd stories, such as the one about the rapist who got into the car of a lady who was putting petrol into her car, or the various versions of the very ill children whose parents need money for emergency treatment. A very useful website to get to the truth of these myths can be found on my blog. We would do each other a favour by first researching even the most heart rending story before we circulate them.
Stories enable us to look inward and understand story patterns and characters that intertwine with the hard-to perceive forces that shape our lives. The stories also enable us to look outward, because story-threads join us to a larger cultural fabric. The most important stories may be those we share with family and friends. All stories help preserve memory, explain our present, and imagine our future. Stories that evolve across time bind individuals to families and families to society, defining our collective values, beliefs and goals.
Stories also connect us to the eternal Source of creativity. Professional writers know that the muse is a combination of discipline and inspiration. That inspiration comes from tuning into another dimension that contains all the stories that we could possibly want ‘ from Tolstoy’s War and Peace to the Harry Potter saga to all the Bible stories.
Here are two lovely short stories that convey lessons to us in a thoughtful manner.
The first one is about the young boy that wanted to become the pupil of an old priest. The priest looked in the eyes of the boy and realised that the boy was not going to live long. He decided to send the boy back to his family to die, but told the boy to come back the next summer.
A year later the boy was back, lively and happy. The priest looked at the boy in astonishment and realised that the boy was not going to die for a very long time. Never questioning what he initially saw in the eyes of the boy, he asked the boy to explain to him in detail what had happened during the previous year.
The boy told the priest how, on his way home, he saw a colony of ants trapped on some high ground in the river. The boy found a long stick and held it over the river so that the ants could walk on the stick to dry land. His arms got very tired, but he held the stick in place until the very last ant had reached dry land. The boy then described the rest of the journey, but the priest was no longer listening. He had realised that that one single act had wiped out all the bad karma that the boy had accumulated in previous lives. That was why the boy was no longer going to die young.
The second story is about two priests that were travelling together on foot. They came to a river crossing where a woman was standing, looking frightened. Brother Benjamin asked her: “Why are you looking so frightened? Can we help you?”
“I need to get to the other side of the river”, she said, “but I can’t swim and am frightened that the water will take me. “
“I can help you,” said Brother Benjamin. The woman got onto his back and they waded to the other side. She thanked him and walked away.
The two priests walked in silence for the next two hours. Brother Benjamin eventually realised that Brother John was silent because he was angry.
“You are very quiet, Brother John? Is something bothering you?” Brother Benjamin asked.
“Is something bothering me! You swore a vow of chastity! You promised never to touch a woman! And there you did not just touch a woman! You carried her on your back in a most indecent manner! Shame on you. Shame on you!” Brother John said.
Brother Benjamin stopped walking and looked at Brother John.
“Brother John,” he said. “I put the woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
Elsabe Smit hereby grants a NON-EXCLUSIVE license to any and all persons and entities to copy and reprint any article she posts as long as the article is left IN-TACT and UNALTERED and proper credit is given to her as Author.
Elsabe Smit is the author of A Tapestry of Life and of the blog http://www. mypurpleblog. com , Spiritual interpretations of everyday life.