Revival – What Revival?

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Revival? What Revival….. 

Recently, I have been involved in many discussions about the ‘Storytelling Revival’ that’s happening right now…all over the world. It’s fascinating, it’s exciting, it’s incredibly promising…is it true?

You know the way you buy a red umbrella, convinced that it’s one of a kind….and then as you leave the shop you see another and over the next few days you see a total of about 24 red umbrellas. I sometimes wonder is it the same about the ‘so-called’ story telling revival. Is it just that I am super-focused on narrative and storytelling and as a result of my focus, it keeps appearing everywhere. The ‘revival’ is simply a mirror of my interest and passion but really there has been no change in the reality out there!
Actually, I don’t think this is the case.
I think that Storytelling is appearing in lots of places that previously were not open to this medium as a way of communicating or practicing. For example, there are many colleges and universities that are now teaching Storytelling as a part of their Medical Schools and Law Schools. These faculties are recognizing the importance of the art of storytelling in their fields; very interesting, and yes, quite new.  
(There was an article recently in the New York Times about ‘Narrative Medicine’- )
Another example can be seen in how so many organizations are getting interested in seeing the power of Storytelling for Organizational Success – particularly in relation to communication, influence and leadership excellence. There have been many wonderful books published on the subject; my personal favourites are those of Annette Simmons, The Story Factor & Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins and Stephen Denning’s Storytelling in Organizations.
So, there begs the question – why? 
Why are people, individuals and organizations, turning to Storytelling?
What is it about Storytelling that fills a need ‘out there’?
There are lots of reasons, here’s just one:
Technology – we are so inundated with information and technology, we have so many choices, we can hear so many views and so many voices. Technology is overwhelming and can be very isolating. This results in a kind of craving, a craving for the simplicity and clarity of traditional storytelling. As we feel lost and overcome by technological advancement and choices, the voice of the storyteller calls us to a world that is less complex and more accessible. The story brings us ‘home’ to a recognizable place that feels safe, warm and we can understand. Story creates a natural order of things.

As Christina Baldwin says in The Storycatcher, ’Something is happening in the power and practice of story; in the midst of overwhelming noise and distraction, the voice of story is calling us to remember our true selves’.  
Recently I told my boys a bedtime story. It was one they love, about the 4 boys and their adventures in the Magical Park. Just as soon as I was finished the story, they asked to hear it again. The following night they wanted to hear it another time. I was reminded how common it is that children will ask to hear the same story many, many times. And they are passionate about the order and details of the story. If you make a mistake, they will be heartbroken and correct you and make you tell the story again ‘properly’! This is because in telling the story, you are creating a world that has order and clear rules and limits. They know and understand what is going to happen. It is safe and defined and presents a truth that they can grasp, and they have control over this truth, this world.
Adults are not so different! Adults also crave safety and predictability –  and the story can create this.  By listening to stories and telling our stories, we can remember our true selves, recapture a world that makes sense! I have yet to meet a person who does not love to hear a good story!  No wonder there’s a storytelling revival!

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