How do we define ourselves culturally? Do we see ourselves as woven of one continuous thread or many diverse threads? Do we connect to one another through a single culture and history or as a composite of many cultures and histories?
For professionals who act as caretakers and presenters of cultural heritage, we perceive our responsibility to lie not only in the areas associated with its physical protection, but we tend to also see ourselves as storytellers.
Are we? What is a storyteller?
A storyteller is the keeper of the thread that holds the distant past together with the near future; the memory that helps people understand the conditions of the present day that they find themselves in.
But, what is a story and what does it tell?
A story is a history in progress, created by the ego, to facilitate the process of individuation; the condition necessary for the human being to consciously experience what it means to be a unique expression of the whole. It is also the mechanism by which human beings get caught in the illusion of separation from awareness of who and what they really are.
We all have a story.
The story serves a purpose. It provides the characters, the script and a set of circumstances to bring the participants together in an often suspenseful play, the last act of which culminates in the remembrance of their oneness.
To get there, it is necessary to first build a story, then awaken to the fact that one is building a story and finally unravel that story, see through it and transcend it. This is the process of awakening or becoming fully conscious.
Why go to the trouble? Why not sidestep the whole story building process?
Because we are here to practice the art of awakening; and a story, as with the ego, is a necessary part of our awakening toolkit while working from within a dualistic experience.
The process applies to cultural groups and communities as well. As with its individual members, every community has a story, a biography of the defining elements of a group’s identity and consciousness manifest as a soul; and it must make the same journey.
Every story in its original state exists outside of subjective interpretation or judgement. It just is. Therefore, it is the sacred responsibility of the storyteller to impartially present the story without either suggesting a meaning or diminishing its power, so that the listener can form their own relationship to it, find what they need in it and benefit from its wisdom. No easy task.
The storyteller is the only player who cannot afford to indulge the ego in the transaction.
If an individual wishes to act as storyteller, that individual must not lose sight of their responsibility as an objective presence. Additionally, it is not their role to moderate history or fabricate connections on behalf of the group. A community should have one voice; not one person acting as its voice. The story of a community, its culture, belongs to its collective.
The individual’s role is to go within the soul of their community and teach that soul how to communicate with other cultures, to bring forward the thread of its story and weave its own cloth; a cloth that may then be freely joined together with the next cloth, and the next and the next. A unique expression of the whole.
But, the story is not the destination, it is only the way.
When our worldly tasks are done and we have gone home, it is not the story that will remain. It is what we learned from the story and brought through it, into the present, that will remain.
It is the love that will remain.
Love is all that matters.