Happy new year
It is said to be a dark moment for the planet, as the earth is heating up as global warming becomes a reality. Forests are burning down and as they turn to ash, they take with them stories of ancient trees and of all the flora y fauna that live in these ecosystems. And the voice of the icebergs ring out with an urgent tone; they are melting away and as they do so countless stories that have been locked within the frozen ice, since remote times, are released.
And, I ask myself, is there anyone out there willing to tell these stories? Is there a public out there, ready to listen to these stories? Who is listening to the obituaries of the people in the cultures that are disappearing before our eyes? Where are the people to assist the funerals of the extinct species who disappear off the face of the earth every day? If there is no one to tell and listen to these stories, then it is indeed, a dark moment for the planet.
It is also said that we need the darkness to see the stars and at this very moment, two lovely initiatives are shining brightly in this darkness: The Earth Stories Collection and the global network of The Earth Story Tellers.
But, first of all, let me tell you how it all started … To do so, we need to travel in time and space to a dark, dark night and enter into a dream that Grian Cutanda, creator of the NGO the Avalon Project, had. It was a strange dream and initially the message was unclear. Little by little, the symbology of the dream started to reveal itself and transform into a real live dream: The Earth Story Collection project. The aims are to create a global bank of stories for the good of planet Earth and her inhabitants. It was inspired in a seed bank, but instead of plants seeds, the Earth Story Collection would collect “cultural seeds”, of myths, legends, fables, stories and other traditional tales from all around the world.
As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
Carl Gustav Jung
The species of Humanity comes from darkness, when night covered the earth, everything became threatening. Humans, sensitive beings, felt the cold on their naked bodies, and were afraid of the howls of wolfs and the snarls of beasts that wandered nearby their primitive shelters.
As the first humans mastered the art of hunting to defend themselves and to feed off the animals they began to wear their skins to protect themselves from the cold. It was a treacherous and arduous time as they were at the mercy of the elements, and survival was a constant challenge with death always just around the corner. These fragile beings were able to succeed thanks to their superior intelligence.
In the dawn of human civilization there was an urge and desire to symbolize. Human beings discovered fire and created art, leaving behind works of great beauty in caves like Altamira. In those times, they would sit around the fire and tell stories, sharing their feelings and hopes. That eagerness to communicate, to talk about ourselves, and confide to another is one of the most powerful instincts of being human.
Talking about oneself requires the ability to imagine and symbolize. Thus, from this urge to tell, human beings started to design and develop fictional stories, under the splendorous stars that shone at night, guiding them as they walked blindly to their destination, in an uncertain fight for survival.
Storytelling as a tool for system intervention within the PICS project. What is this PICS project? Well - in brief - it’s a project in which we, the partners, have developed a method which aims at the behavioural change of young people in order to establish more respectful, resilient and peaceful communities. In this method we make use of storytelling techniques and picture language. In other words: PICS aims to change the system by means of storytelling techniques supported by picture language. The next speaker will shed a light on the ‘picture language’ part; I would like to introduce you to storytelling; in general and focused on the use in this project. But before doing so, I’d like to say something about ‘the system’ we aim to change.
In our urban society - as in almost all urban societies in Europe - youth from various backgrounds - religious, ethnic or cultural - live together. And let's not forget to mention the differences in economic terms; the haves and the have nots. This kind of society is referred to as a heterogeneous society. And without wanting to be too negative, these kind of societies are at risk of conflict.
Let me explain this ... I am not referring to conflict as in war zones, but to conflict that endangers the peace in a society like the one we are living in. Not all conflicts endanger this peace; conflicts are actually part of our society. As a former drama-student I am fully aware that my vocation would not exist without it and I even dare to say that life does not exist without conflict, whether inner and outer. But conflict becomes a danger when we do not know how to handle it. Or, as Bart Brandsma states in his publication Inside Polarisation: Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the way we deal with a series of conflicts in a constructive way.
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Those of us who dedicate our lives to storytelling are united in sending a
message of support and solidarity to the whole of society with respect to the crisis resulting from illness due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Just like the characters in the best tales, we find ourselves in the middle of a dense
forest, with a feeling that the wolf is lurking in the darkness. But we know we are not alone, because someone always appears to help us out of the forest or the wolf's stomach! In this story we all count, and our collective solidarity, effort and care are our spells against the virus and its effects.
So the storytellers are asking you to tell, make up, read and listen to stories, anecdotes or happenings
in order to cheat time,
in order to take a trip without leaving home,
in order to smile or tremble through the most incredible adventures,
in order to remember the elderly and all the stories they have told us,
in order to recognise ourselves in joy, pain or fear,
in order to let the world spin for a moment in which nothing matters except being together at that very moment.
For our part, we will continue to make up and tell stories in our homes and through
social media. We do not yet know the end of this story, or whether we will all live happily ever after, but what we do know is that the fear we are feeling is shared and does not make us less brave, but makes us more human and fragile.
Just like the characters in the best tales, some day, when all this is over, we will have been transformed, and we will have new stories to tell.
Because storytelling is a balsam for days of confinement with thousands of years of proven effectiveness behind it and which once again must bring humanity together around the fire, until the night is through.
This manifesto was written in March 2020 by representatives of all the storytelling associations in Spain: AEDA, Spanish Professional Oral Tradition Association – ANIN, Storytelling Association (Catalonia) – GNOA, Andalusian Oral Tradition Guild – MANO, Madrid Oral Tradition Association – NANO, Storytellers' Organisation (Community of Valencia) – NOGA, Galician Oral Tradition Collective – TAGORAL, Canaries Association of the Oral Tradition.