The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.Thomas King
Thomas King and actor Graham Greene ham it up to raise funds for Frontier College at the 2005 Peter Gzowski Invitational, held at The Briars Golf Club.
© Peter Sibbald, 2005.
It is often said, “everyone has a story to tell”, even if many of us may not actually feel we have much of one. But I think the indigenous story-teller and academic Thomas King sharpens this most essential point when he writes: “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”* Stripped of the material trappings and ephemera of living, we all look fundamentally alike. In the end, stories allow us to feel unique and distinguishes us in the eyes of others.
Reflecting on our lives, what is it that we remember? How is it that we express those memories to ourselves, to others? How do we refer to the things that have given our lives meaning? Indeed, what if we had no one to tell them to? Would they exist? What if those stories, our stories, were never recorded? Perhaps a forgotten story might explain one’s achievements, or the very existence of one’s children and grandchildren. What discovery did she stumble upon on that weekend fishing trip that led to her returning to work with a plan that saved the company? What was it about the breakfast that morning, the incident along the road that caused the coffee spill that made him late for the ferry… that sunk?
Sure, others can fish around and patch together a biography, a string of facts, a chronology of dates and events: dry, colourless inference.
But what will carry the emotional resonance and essence of our lives are the stories we carry within, the stories we can yet leave behind… or record before their carriers take them with them.
Stories can have incredible powers of persuasion. From the great Holy texts of our species, to brilliant advertisements, to a cautionary tale from a parent to a child, stories can influence our behaviour and our decisions. The stories we leave behind us can shape how those who follow perceive our intentions, our mistakes and triumphs. For in the end, only we can put context to the stories of our lives, reveal the essential truths, and give them coherence.
What of the voice of the storyteller voice? Perhaps you have had the experience of picking the voice of a loved one out of a crowd? I have, and it was as though they were the only one using a loudspeaker: oral to aural. It’s profound, and so too are the stories recorded in the voices of the original tellers. If, as photographers we are fond of claiming, “the eyes are the windows to the soul”, then a person’s voice is perhaps that soul’s thumbprint, especially if it belongs to someone close to us.