Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Serious stuff

This week, down in Pembrokeshire, I saw a boy sitting on a stone pillar at the back of Abereiddi beach. He was probably about 10 years old, in his hands was a book, a proper book, and he was reading. When we left the beach an hour or two later, he was still there, still reading. The sight felt emblematic to me of those things that make me feel joyful.

On Thursday evening on S4C (that’s the Welsh channel), there was an equally hope-inspiring item on a programme about the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. A choir from Indonesia was performing and a background item from Indonesia itself focused on a school where dance and music and other arts items play as prominent a part in the curriculum as any other subject. I think it was the Principal of the school who, in an interview, said how important the arts are considered to be all over her country. ‘We feel they give the children sensitivity.’

Signs of hope:

All things which bring a sense of hope are to be treasured at this time when so many of us feel and observe the extent to which the world is in trouble. Climate change, the decimation of the bee population, the vile behaviour of so many countries towards migrants: the difficult issues are so numerous.

Here’s a story from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata, that juxtaposes the direst concerns about the world’s future with a sense of renewal of hope.

A story from the Mahabharata:

Markandeya was tired. All that was left was the detritus of the floodwaters which had encompassed the world. As he trudged through the lifeless grey waters, Markandeya felt there was no longer any point in being alive.

Suddenly, ahead of him, Markandeya saw a tree. It was a fig-tree in vibrant green life. At the base of the tree was sitting a young boy. When the boy saw Markandeya, the boy said to him: ‘Old man, you look tired. You look as if you need a rest. Come inside my body.’

With that, a big wind blew up. It lifted Markandeya into the air and blew him towards the boy’s mouth. Markandeya went into the mouth and when he came down, he found himself in a fresh, new world. Plants were growing, the sun was shining, he heard a baby crying, people talking, a woman singing. As Markandeya saw all around him the life of people and nature, he felt the surge of hope within him. He felt that the world had been made anew.

Why we need such stories:

We need such stories so we can retain our sense of what is good and our feeling of being able to contribute to it. We need such stories to help keep us positive and restore our sense of hope. And we need such stories because they are so extraordinary, they make you wonder where on earth they have come from. The strangeness of them is, in itself, reassuring. It give you something with which to connect.

PS: My two photos are from a Pembrokeshire beach. Both cairns that appeared on Abermawr beach. The one in the top photo I saw at the top of the pebbles when I was there yesterday. The second was there some three years ago. Both felt like creative messages to whoever would see them. Besides, such care had gone into the making of them, I think I’ll always feel happy to remember them.

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