004: I am grateful for storytelling

I love a good story. Thanks to may parents, ever since I was a child being read Howard R. Garis’ “Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book”, about an old rabbit with rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve been fairly easy to enthrall.


Photo by kris krüg on Flickr

I’m lucky to have met some fantastic storytellers. One of those is, Dave Olson, seen in the photo above holding court at SXSW 2009.

Today we went to see the exhibits in the Vancouver Police Museum. Where we took plenty of photos and got to learn a bit about the history of this city. Afterward we went on the Sins of the City walking tour, also put on by the museum and lead by Chris Mathieson, a wonderful storyteller. So that’s why, today, I am grateful for storytelling.

What is storytelling?

Storytelling is the art of conveying a narrative, either true or fictitious, through using words, images and sounds (or any other method of communication we silly humans can come up with).

Storytelling has been used as long as people have been able to grunt somewhat intelligibly, dance, scratch a rock on another rock, paint or just wave their arms about. Some of storytelling’s uses are:

  • entertainment
  • education
  • preservation of culture
  • to instill moral values

Reynolds Price wrote this about the story:

A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens–second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day’s events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths. [source]

Storytelling was more or less an oral practice until around the time Sumerians began writing things down on stone tablets around 2600 B.C. From Ancient Mesopotamia, just a little later on during the Bronze Age, the Epic of Gilgamesh has been counted as one of the earliest written narratives.

Now, there seem to be as many other forms of storytelling as there are stories to be told. I’m grateful that at the stroke of a few keys we can get our story fix almost instantly from books, music, video, and blogs.

That said, I still like to hear a story from another human being. Like the one we heard today about The Grand Hotel in Vancouver as told by Chris Mathieson:

The Grand Hotel from Mike Browne on Vimeo.

You can read the text of the song The Grand Hotel and Tommy Roberts’ eventual comeuppance on numachi.com.

I still own the Uncle Wiggily book I mentioned at the beginning of this post and, strangely, always recall one particular story in the book titled, “Uncle Wiggily and the Mumps”. Perhaps I should have been a doctor.

Pretty much everything that I have learned in my life worthy of any mention at all has been through some form of storytelling. In fact, I believe storytelling has literally saved my life. Listening to people share their stories gives me hope: Stories about things I have been through; stories about personal struggle and victory against almost impossible odds; stories about living life one day at a time; stories about the joy of just being alive.

Thank you storytelling!


  1. carol browne · September 26, 2009

    Both these guys are excellent story tellers. I’ve been lucky to hear them both tell their tales.

  2. Mike Browne · September 28, 2009

    I’m sure we’re going to hear more from both of them.

  3. Suzanne Crawford · September 30, 2009

    Good story tellers are the best.

  4. Mike Browne · September 30, 2009

    It’s true Suzanne. We know some great ones.

  5. Dave O · December 3, 2009

    Thanks for your kinds words – I am very grateful as i truly enjoy sharing my stories.

  6. Mike Browne · December 3, 2009

    Thanks for stopping by Dave. We need to get together to talk and rip the grandpa tapes!

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