Saturday, January 21, 2017
This is only one of the many stories i've learned over the years that simultaneously enchants and disturbs me. I know hundreds of stories - nowhere near the 3,000 that the legendary Duncan Williamson was said to have known (and, having once spent a week with Duncan as his driver and host, i believe the truth of that claim) - and I've often wondered about this or that story that i love if i would grow bored of it. Remarkably, this has never happened. At least i continue to find that remarkable. My theory of this is that as long as i have something to learn from a story, i will not, indeed can not, grow tired of it. But while many stories reside in my memory with delight and fondness, there are some that have a more uncomfortable feel to them: enchanting, yes, but also, as i said, disturbing. And, perhaps not surprisingly, i pay special attention to such stories. Though often, upon first encountering them, i will avoid them, certainly avoid telling them, and even try and forget them. But such things are hard to forget and they return again and again to afflict my consciousness - almost as if to say, "let us out, tell us, tell us now!"
This story has obvious resonance with the 1960s-inspired pop-ethic of positive thinking (and which reminds me of what comedian Ronnie Shakes once said, "I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: what the hell good would that do?") But there is, of course, a great deal of power in what we think and it affects not only our mental health but our physical health and the health and well-being of our entire world. I've wrestled for years, and expect to continue such for years to come, with the relationship of our thinking and its influence on our material, spiritual, psychological, and social worlds. Which is why, i suppose, i have devoted my life to a praxis of popular education which is something that i believe is about creating the conditions that support us in changing the way we learn and, therefore, think. And stories, as i've often said, are the original popular education. And this story, with its grim humour, continues to teach me and it makes me smile.
image source: Banyan tree in Calcutta.