I can trace it back to the beginning for you, trace my Moth addiction to its start. For the uninitiated, the Moth is an organization devoted to the craft of storytelling. It’s real people telling true stories, “live and without notes.”
So can I. Click the image above to read Nathan Englander’s engaging account of telling stories in front of a live audience. Reading it I am reminded of my recently untended year-old efforts to further articulate Why La Paz Group?
We share in common with The Moth a belief that stories matter enough to organize our lives and activities around them. In a world of ever-more accessible information, we need stories to help us make sense of it (some of which remains meaningless without mystical fabulation), just as much as was the case in Homeric, Aboriginal or early Judaic periods of human history. Some of the story-telling on this site is little changed, in terms of style, from traditions inherited from those earlier cultures. Some is technologically or otherwise unhinged from earlier traditions. Others, just unhinged. Most mix words and images to form a narrative, however big or small the punchline may be. It bears repeating that we need to shut off this machine from time to time and just take a breath of fresh air.
But if this is how we tell stories now, then what shall we tell stories about? I appreciate The Moth’s open arms approach to answering that question. Here, we document (with words, images, video, sound) or link to stories that illuminate themes important to community, collaboration and/or conservation. We accept the risk of being all over the place. Looking back at the first year, there are enough common threads weaving it all together. With a new crew of interns, it is no surprise to see Meg’s monsoon croon and Sunnie’s taxi tango lessons next to Salim’s colorful illustrations of local life (natural and cultural). A very pleasant surprise, since going viral requires a mix of inspiration and perspiration that I have not yet figured out, is Ben’s recent post on achieving a milestone that means a lot to him (and a few thousand other people, judging from the readership so far). Next, watch for posts from four more interns who are lining up completely new types of creative posts as I type this…
Recently I was listening to three people discuss the particular challenge of telling stories related to one of human history’s most troubling events. The podcast (go straight to 7:32 for that; or start at the beginning for a wonderful review of odd jobs various New Yorker writers held earlier in their careers) is worth more than the half hour of listening time, even if you have no interest in story-telling ethics. The issue covered is a cousin to some of the tougher dilemmas we pay attention to here (see posts highlighting cases of pescicide, felinocide and arbolicide for some recent examples of subjects I find as troubling as genocide). Some stories, even the simple type we usually share here, might be better suited for a stage; others for an intimate dinner; still others for a call to an old friend. It depends, of course, on what it is we want to communicate.
It reminded me that the story’s it matters more than my otherwise prevailing assumption that the story’s it.