“Who will speak these days, if not I, if not you?” Muriel Rukeyser
In the Speed of Darkness (1968), the poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser, musing on Einstein’s discovery, wrote: “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” Every story has a sacred dimension waiting to be discovered, transmitting through generations the existence of men and women and the reality of their world, making sense of their lives and helping them discover themselves. Life experience is rooted in storytelling.
To you, the listener, make no mistake, you are just as important to the story. You are the soul connection! You are the bridge between someone’s reality and the world on earth; the one to bring the suffering out of darkness into the world, in time and space, ensuring that we do not lose touch with ourselves.
Storytelling is an art, and it is not only about literature. It is about connecting people beyond time and space, travelling together and building bridges between people. Storytelling is about community rather than information sharing. In today’s world where knowledge reigns all powerful, we have lost the messenger. We have lost the ability to see through his eyes, to feel her passion, or share their suffering.
The artists among us, writers, painters, help us reconnect with the world around us, helping us relate to the soul of a place, well beyond the information transmitted at the speed of light and in mega quantities. Storytelling is the only way to connect with the world of others.
The most useful book I read prior to moving to Moscow was Letters from Russia by Astolphe de Custine. The Marquis de Custine’s record of his trip to Russia in 1839 is a perceptive, one might even say prophetic, account of one of the world’s most fascinating and troubled countries. It is also a wonderful piece of travel writing, rich in stories of people with whom Custine met during his travels, with vivid descriptions of St Petersburg, Moscow and the Russian countryside. Custine, through his sharp sense of observation, his wealth of descriptions, brought me along on his journey. With eyes wide open, I fell in love with a country I still cherish in my memories through its people and their stories.
I had to leave the country abruptly and many of my friends asked that I put pen to paper and recount my journey. The circumstances of my departure made it difficult. Six long years have passed and I only recently understood the power of storytelling. My story is not mine to keep. It is yours as well. Indeed, the first purpose to write may be to reveal or discover something within yourself. The second purpose is clearly to share with others and provide a mirror for humanity. Healing international relations is about storytelling and building bridges. It is about recognizing that what you see in the mirror is also part of you.