There is so much happening in our world: from COVID, to politics, to so many lifestyle changes. To me, these changes are both unnerving and fascinating, especially around American politics. Here is something that is certain: our political beliefs are a reflection of our values and morals; and they are very often a reflection of how we were raised. Our politics are reflected in how we parent and how we care for others. So how we develop our political thinking is fascinating. And in many ways what is happening with politics is storytelling. Our political thinking represents an oral tradition that passes our values, morals, and beliefs to the next generation. And some politicians are simply very good at telling that story. Today’s episode is about storytelling . . . . not political stories; that’s not really a hill I want to professionally die on.
Here in my office I have a small collection of Pueblo storytellers. You may know what I’m referring to—most of them of are pretty small, maybe a few inches, tall; they are handcrafted from clay with bright colors and they portray a figure that is sitting and usually holding kids or even animals on his or her lap; the figure can be pretty much anything, but are often a man or woman or any type of animal even. Pueblo Storytellers have a really distinctive, exaggerated open mouth that makes it really hard to deny that the figure represented in the art is telling a story with purpose; a story that’s important to them. Sometimes the kids even have open mouths, as if they are repeating the story they are being told. You probably know that storytelling is important in the Native American culture. In fact, Native American people see their storytelling tradition as crucial in the preservation of the morals, values, traditions, and experiences of their culture. Storyteller pottery started in the 1960’s by a woman named Helen Cordero, from Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico. And since then well over 200 potters across 13 pueblos have created their versions of the storyteller figures, all with varying shapes and sizes. Some are represented as Santas, or owls, or Koshares, which are pueblo Indian clowns that represent ancestral spirits.
So the reason I have a fascination with Pueblo storytellers is because I have a really great respect for storytelling. Storytelling is something I’m not great at, unfortunately, but I know good storytelling when I hear it! And I think that’s areally hard to find. And it's something I don’t find in most Hollywood movies or even NY Times best sellers. Too many of those stories are formulaic; they’re predictable; and nd most really don’t teach us much. What I love is a story that passes cultural values to future generations; that instills the principles, morals, and belief systems of a society. And storytelling is important in counseling, because the stories we tell become a reality of some ways. So we can begin to re-write the way we have always understood things. And hopefully we can re-write things with honest, accurate appraisals of the world around us.
Storytelling is a true artform, and there really are only a few people in my own life that are good at. My wife is tired of hearing me tell this story, but it’s such a good memory. Several years ago my wife and I went to Chebeague Island in Maine and stayed for the weekend. We stayed at the only Inn on the island. We were hanging out in the great room—kind of a main area of the Inn—and there was a bar there. My wife said she needed to go back to the room for something so I sat down at the bar for a bit (Maine, after all, does have a few great micro breweries that are represented around town!). At the other end of the bar there were two older men talking—probably in the ‘80s. We were the only three sitting there. Eventually, one of the men left, and this older gentleman