Jesus was a badass.
That was my take-away from my weekly religious instructions as a child. I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were going for. But still, even as a kid I saw him as the subversive, rebel-genius that he was and I loved him for it!
I had forgotten this until recently.
It was during the recording of a recent Story Mischief that I was reminded of this major shaping influence and partial reason for my obsession with storytelling.
The episode focused on the parable of The Good Samaritan.
The scene is set in much the same way all the parables told by Jesus are, with someone asking him a question or challenging one of his teachings.
And just like that, Jesus busts out a story that up-end’s everyone’s thinking and disarms any attempt to challenge his authority. No need to raise his voice or shoot lasers out of his eyes.
His storytelling was as much a miracle to me, as raising Lazarus from the dead. Perhaps more so, because it was one that I could conceive of doing myself.
While I’m not entirely sure it would have been JC’s style, I like to picture him ending each storytelling session with a mic drop and a “peace-out bitches!” because effectively, that’s what he did. Total baller move.
Then it occurred to me, that all of my storytelling heroes share a number of attributes. Attributes that elevate storytelling to something more than even an art from.
1) No attachment to the outcome - They let the listener and the story have their own experience of one another. They don’t try to control the experience. This may feel contradictory, especially in the case of someone like Jesus trying to prove a point, but he always seemed to leave the story laying where.. well.. where he flung it.
2) Awareness of the audience - I didn’t fully understand this until I started telling stories myself, but my favorite storytellers are deeply aware of their audience. This awareness shapes how the story gets told, much in the same way the story shapes the audience. It’s the storyteller’s awareness of their audience that invokes a symbiotic relationship making it difficult to recognize who is shaping who. And yes, I am speaking of the story as if it were its own living being. Because it is.
3) Adaptability - The best of the best have an uncanny ability to move with the moment. They’re able to seamlessly weave unexpected occurrences into a story and make it seem as though it was a part of the story all along. A strange noise, the appearance of an animal, a shift in light…It’s this ability that makes every telling of a story a first and last event allowing the teller to never tell the exact same story twice.
These are only a few of those qualities I recognize in the great storytellers.
My hope is, if I can develop and master these skill within my own storytelling, who knows…maybe I’ll give walking on water a try next.
I make videos about the things I and the people I serve, need to hear.