Humans are short lived creatures. Tortoises live for a few hundred years. If they had the urge to, they could rule the world, but they don’t appear to have the interest. The longest lived trees live for thousands of years. Our puny three score and ten barely allow us to scratch the surface of life. How we secure our longevity is by our actions, by the things we make and the things we do, and more interestingly to me, the things we write and the stories we tell.
Our stories last beyond our lives, in a cosmic relay. I am not so cute as to try and sell the lie that stories are alive. If you twist reality there is some kinda intellectual massaging that can almost persuade the hopeful that stories live. Stories are not alive, but they are the ghosts of life, the imprint of life that has been. They are what is left of the human soul after time and experience, after imagination and loss has had it’s wicked way with us: they are what remains after the tree has been cut down. They provide the seeds for new stories to grow from the minds that swallow the sum of the experiences of those that went before us leaving only their tales behind them.
It is not the stories that are alive, it is us, the humans, who are so vital, so full of life that we leave all manner of ghosts behind us.
The great oral storytelling traditions tell us how our ancestors perceived the world around them: their world was one of Gods and Goddesses, of magic and human sacrifices, from the tales told by the Pilgrims to each other in The Canterbury Tales to the Creation stories of the Native American tribes. From the Shinto Kami of Japan, to Greek and Roman mythology, people have told stories to each other since the very start. Stories help us make sense of the world and help us bear the boredom of time that passes too slowly and all of a sudden is gone for ever.
At the end of his time on this planet, the old man sits upon the edge of his bed and tells his stories: car crashes and ditches, parties and carpets, children that were not his, and children that were. A pencil that he purchased for a little girl that he raised, and then someone tried to take from her becomes a epic tale of defense of all that is good and kind and just. He takes the role of hero, puts on the mantle of responsibility and emerges from a bathroom shouting that no one will take from these little ones, and in doing so asserts his position as one of the good men, one of the decent men. He allows himself the shine of goodness in the smut of the dying of the light.
Words last. Stories continue. We buff our creativity and hone our art or craft in the hope that this egg will be the golden one that will be carried from nest to nest, to hatch into a new story, built from the bones of our own, raising us up from the dust of the grave, to inhabit the pages of books held by the hands of our children, and their children after them.
Words are immortal. That poem, that story or that diatribe, that little vignette of life you made yesterday, it has been set upon a river, it’s light shining forth, not extinguished by the waves, or submerged as the lantern toppled over, and may well reach the other side of Time itself, to be picked up by the hands of another, and carried like treasure into the future.
Though the flesh is weak, words are strong. They last. Use them wisely. The stories I write have a million beginnings and no endings, some flutter apart and give way to nonsense. Others sit hopefully waiting for a spark of inspiration, so they can finish. Let me tell you a tale….
Once below a time, there was a little girl, and you may laugh but she could tell a truth from a half baked truth, and all the colors in-between which silently fell. Upon a dirty canvas she created stories from her innocence and glee, secreted within gaudy shades she waited, quietly as the flea that sits upon the backs of the neighborhood cat, who stalks the rooftops, and cries and wails. This little girl, shall we call her Anouska never really did quite what she oughta, or what was expected of her by others, who proposed to know, but just moaned and muttered about the ultimate truths contained within, certain texts, weed and gin, but never the Ultimate Truths contained within….