How story telling can bring back the dead

You definitely know this feeling. You have this great story to tell. It’s a story about something that has changed your life. But when you tell it to your friends all of a sudden the magic is gone.

For some bizarre reason they don’t seem to understand why this whole thing is so important to you, let alone why it could be important for them.

But the more you try to explain it, the worse it gets. And all you get is weary smiles and an awkward silence.

Most of us would probably get mad at their friends by now (you’re just too stupid or superficial to understand) or believe we’ve made a fool of ourselves and forget about our once so important experience (since apparently it wasn’t that big a deal after all).

But it was.

In fact. I’m 100% sure it was.

And I believe that in most cases, the experience was definitely worth telling the story. And it could have inspired your friends as much as it inspired you. If only you’d have told the story instead of just talking about it.

It’s about bringing a story back to life versus bringing a corpse to the table saying “this is a great guy because he did great things” and expecting your audience to understand how great guy this dead man really was and expect them to be as enthousiastic as you are.

It doesn’t work, does it.

Here’s another – less mortifying and probably more apt to life – example.

A few days ago I took a workshop with C., a Knight of Now. C.’s a great guy.

He gave a workshop on Time at our agency’s New Year’s party. (A bit early, I know, but that’s stuff for another story.)

C.’s approach to Time as we know it (which is basically Clock Time), was interesting, but what intrigued me more was the way he gave his workshop, the way he told his story.

Or rather, the way he talked and forgot to tell his story.

You had the experiments and then you had the theoretical part.

The experiments were designed to help us get a sense of time, to get us to feel that time as we knew it (Clock Time) was something we didn’t understand at all. There were other senses of time that were far more interesting and far more rewarding if only you’d knew what they were about and how you could experience them.

Although we spent quite some time experimenting for most of the workshop – or so it seemed – C. was basically talking.

And when he was talking he was explaining how he got interested in time and how he discovered that there were multiple approaches to time and that, if you allowed yourself to take a different approach to time, it could turn your life upside down.

All very interesting for C.. But was it interesting for the audience?
Not really.


The information in itself was potentially very interesting, but the way C. told it made it hard for us to understand. On top of that he kept on repeating himself as if he wanted to make it very clear that what he was saying was very important.

Rationally I knew that what he told us was probably all very true, but knowing that didn’t really mean anything to me.

That didn’t have anything to do with C.’s enthousiasm.

The problem here was that C. just described his experiences and – probably without even realizing it – assumed that this would be enough for us to understand why this information was so important. And maybe it would be even enough for us to experience the same thing he had experienced.

But it wasn’t.

Whenever he said he had discovered something about time I wanted to know what had made him discover this.

I wanted him to bring his experience back to life, take us back to the moment when he didn’t knew what he knew now and then present us with that great example that struck him so deeply that it changed his life forever.

Suppose C. forgot about all the theory and just presented us with slices of life similar to his life-changing experiences in order to allow us to experience what he had experienced.

That would have made a huge difference.

Why? It would have given us a sense that we were in this together, that it really mattered to all of us. Not because he told us so. And not because rationally we knew we were. But because we felt it, because it was undeniable and true without somebody telling us it was. We knew. And we knew it together.

It would have allowed us to be lost for words.

And perhaps being lost for words would have been perfectly fine. No explanation needed. What more can you wish for as a tutor?

Now imagine how we would have listened to what C. would have said then, when he would have started talking about what we had just experienced. Imagine he would have asked us questions about what we had been doing and how we had felt about this? Imagine him identifying these insights after our mutual experiences.

That would have been unbelievable.

I have to admit that part of the workshop was organized that way. After every experiment C. asked us questions about how we felt and what we thought. That was very good.

Still everytime we got into the story, he took us back out of it and started telling his story without taking us with him.

A pitty. Because I truly believe that he had a great story to tell. If only he would have been able to stage it. If only he would have known the difference between narrating the story and talking about it.

Instead of being really good it would have been truly great.

Does this story say anything about the importance of what C. has said during the workshop? I don’t believe it does. Everything C. brought up during his session may turn out useful in the end and may help you understand future experiences. This is something he actually explained at the beginning of his session. (added: 5:47 pm)

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One thought on “How story telling can bring back the dead

  1. olivia says:

    wow! i cant believe there are people who do such thing im dispointed in how animal abuse is reacted these days im a suporting animal activist just trying to help animals i am very interested in animals and i am vegetarian i have been fro five months so far and i hope for longer. thank you and i hope that you will contact me as soon as possible:)

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