Monthly Archives: April 2008

Dolphins and Air Bubbles

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Sikhs and the London Race for Mayor

In response to this article in the UK Evening Standard CLICK HERE

Harmander Singh wrote:

Dear Editor,

On behalf of Sikhs In England, I write to express dismay concerning Mr Gilligan’s two articles on the Mayoral election in which he castes a inaccurate but speculative conjectures relating to the Sikh community which any reasonable person would find offensive.

Whilst it is recognised that newsmedia have a duty to explore and report any aspect of candidates standing for public office, it is also accepted that some candidates are supported or scrutinised more than others, however, to tarnish whole communities based on partial information is not what as Londoners we have come to expect from the Evening Standard.

Generic media phrases such as ‘The vast majority of the British Sikh community is peaceful and lawabiding’ often belie an underbelly of tainted scepticism of the writer and have the effect of marginalising the whole community no matter what niceties that follow – these same phrases have historically been used by the media when reporting on the Irish, Black and Muslim communities and have had a most unhelpful effect.

Given the articles are about the election in which a number of Right Wing candates are standing, I wonder whether Mr Gilligan would be minded to repeat these words in referring to the indigenous community – I certainly hope not as this would not be a fair reflection of Londoners as a whole.

For the record, the trial of the 1985 Air India downed flight proved less conclusive than Mr Gilligan suggests as there seem to be at least two conflicting theories. It is understood that the ‘BBC File on 4 investigation earlier this year unearthed current links between leading British-based Sikh militants and al-Qaeda’ assertion made by Mr Gilligan is also a subject of further scrutiny as to its accuracy.

It would seem that by writing that ‘Britain’s large Sikh community provided money,,,,,’ Mr Gilligan has ironically fell on his own sword of ‘sexing up’ an otherwise perfectly legitimate angle of investigative journalism. The damage done to the image of ‘The vast majority of the British Sikh community [which] is peaceful and lawabiding’ is immense and Mr Gilligan if not the Evening Standard may want to make a financial contribution to charitable causes as reparation equivalent to 10% of annual income – as Sikhs do as part of their faith’s teachings.

Harmander Singh
Principal Advisor to Sikhs In England
http://www.sikhs.org.uk

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FOX News – So Racist, So so so So Racist!

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Flying Dreams by Kamalla Rose Kaur

Spring 2001

Anna spent last night flying.

“It was so wonderful! I was really upset when I woke up and had to land. What do you suppose flying dreams mean?”

“Freud thought they were sex dreams” I told her and I laughed at the face she made at me, “but then Freud thought almost every dream experience and symbol was about sex.”

“Victorian old goat!” Anna declared.

“I think flying dreams are spiritual dreams myself.” I assured her. “So did Carl Jung for what it is worth. Flying dreams grace us with such an elevated, soaring, freeing and ecstatic experience.”

“Yes, it was so very wonderful; like how spiritual liberation must feel.” Anna sighed.

This set me to thinking about dreams and about flying and about liberation and what it all might mean, as Ken and I drove up a bumpy dirt road a few hours later. How beautiful it was today! The forest was thick with spring foliage, soft and fluffy in every shade of green, accented with yellow and pink and purple wild flowers. Birds and bugs were singing praise to the Creator/Creation in full voice. And when we finally made it to the top of the coastal hill, and sat together on the cliff overlooking the blue waters of Puget Sound far below and the islands beyond, the golden sunshine poured down over us feeling far better than any intoxicant imaginable. I was completely filled with gratitude to the whole wondrous world spread before me.

Ken clearly was feeling the same. He expressed his thankfulness and praise, musician that he is, by playing a hand drum.

“Kamalla” he murmured suddenly, while his hands continued dancing out a wondrous pattern. I looked into his eyes and he looked up, and I looked up as well.

There in the pure blue sky was an eagle circling above us. Actually she was gliding, huge wings perfectly outstretched and still. She floated down the mountain, catching the thermals off the forested cliffs, soaring upwards and then gently gliding around and down – and then, seemingly effortlessly, she soared back up again.

I was deeply disappointed when a big jeep came roaring up the road. It is so easy to give praise and feel gratitude to the Divine when life is perfect and pure. But big noisy red 4 wheel drive vehicles disturbing my peace and pleasure do not always seem to be part of God’s Plan – even though I know that all things come fromCreator/Creation.

Fascinatingly enough, however, we soon realized that the long bagged tube that was strapped to the roof of the red jeep was a hang glider! Out of the jeep jumped a tall blond handsome man with designer sunglasses. His wife, or maybe it was his girlfriend, stayed in the jeep.

“Hello!” he greeted us as he marched over to the cliff, “what a wonderful day!”

I greeted him back and Ken nodded but kept right on drumming, and the eagle flew in closer for a moment, as if she were curious as well.

“Great! Wind is just right!” the intruder declared as he gazed down over the vista. Then he marched back to his jeep and un-strapped the long tube. I watched, much amazed, as the man busied himself unfolding and building his wings. The hang glider was quite large but he told me, when I asked, that it only weighed sixty-five pounds.

It seemed no time at all before this man, harnessed to his wings simply ran right off the side of the cliff and soared off over the waters, playing with the same thermals that the eagle had; though the eagle had now disappeared. The red jeep roared back down the mountain – the woman quickly driving off, I assumed, to meet her flying partner in a pasture far below.

Ken and I watched the hang glider fly just like we had watched the eagle. And suddenly the words of Guru Tegh Bahadur (found in the Sikh scripture) popped into my mind:

“A dream or a show, know that the world is so; says Nanak, save for the Almighty One, there is nothing real here.”

Anna spent last night flying and I spent today meditating on flight. Ken kept right on drumming.

What does it all mean?

“The Divine One is the bestower of all joys, there is no other. Says Nanak, listen my mind, we are liberated by remembering that One.”

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Filed under Inspiring, Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Multicultural, Pacific Northwest, Sikhi

Sikhs of Jatt Descent

From Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jatt

“The Jat people are considered by some to be the merged descendants of the original Indo-Aryans and a later addition of Indo-Scythian tribes of the region, merging to form the Jat people. The Jat people of India and Pakistan are not to be confused with the peripatetic Jats of Afghanistan, who are a distinct ethnic group.
The Jat people follow different faiths and are engaged in different professions. They have a discrete and distinct cultural history that can be historically traced back to ancient times.”

Recently I have been visiting a “Jatt” internet forum to share my thoughts, and also be educated, by fellow Sikhs (of various types) who assert that “Jat” is not a Hindu caste, rather an ethnic group.

So now I have changed my opinion and I feel that Dusenbery and the rest of us, including those who happily call themselves “Jatt Sikhs” should use the standard modern English usage – “Sikhs of Jatt Descent.”

I am happy to change my mind again as seems wise in light of new and fascinating knowledge. Here is what I learned. Please comment!

LEO TX writes:

Hi KamallaRoseKaur,

I went through some of the article and the 5 comments. I would like to hear from you, how do you categorize an ethnic group or a homogeneous ethnic group if you want to call it that, as caste? People of all Jatt clans amongst Hindu, Muslim or Sikhs, have been living in North India (and W Punjab), for about a couple of thousand years now. Prominent Indian caste system binds every outsider to their lowest category, shudra. So that is what they would call a Jatt as or even a visible white person..let us say, from Canada as. As a matter of fact, if a Brahmin of their system eats meat, eats with shudra or crosses sea, he automatically falls off his high rank. If I were to present an analogy, I will use a job or more-so military system..although, not all aspects may match.

Having given the basic geographical location geographical of Jatts from all religions, I would understand it if someone is trying to tie Jatts down as shudras, like some highly intelligent scholars from some of the Sikh websites do, calling Jatts as low class (as per Indian caste system) and then marching with an agenda of No-belief-in-caste-system. But point is, that, Jatts haven’t whined about this credo & never associated themselves with this caste system in past, neither they do now. Instead, they prefer to maintain their ethnic identity, culture and customs, language and literature etc…none of which is prohibited by any regulations of Sikhism. This is what is maintained even today. Dropping it would be asking to drop all of those I mentioned above (which I don’t understand has a any reasons to be dropped). Having said that, question arises….so where is this scary chill of someone being Jatt or an inferiority complex from so called Gurmukh Sikhs, coming from…who are trying to put Jatts down and contradicting their credo as well?

But, is addressing a Sikh as Jatt wrong? Why…? Is he not a Jatt if he becomes a Sikh? Is a person not White or Black or Hispanic if their become Sikh or Christian or Muslim? Should he not maintain his culture or ethics or values or literature if he becomes a Sikh? I think he should. By your color I might tell you are white or black or whatever and by my clan name you might tell if I am Jatt or not. Does that make you or me any smarter, higher or lower? I don’t think so and I have always failed to understand…why it does so for most learned people. By our turban, one might be able to tell if these people are Sikhs or not.

Crux of the talk is that being a Jatt or Khatri or from a Hindu high caste system or being white or black does not make anyone higher or lower. A sikh would never mind if you call him Sikh or a Jatt Sikh (if he is Jatt). A practicing Sikh may not be a Jatt and still the one doing wrong deeds. What is separating the two sides then? We both know what it is. Names and titles wash away and die. It is a waste of time thinking, why he is calling himself a Jatt Sikh and not Sikh. Well, may be because he belongs to that ethnic group of Punjab & because he might be a Sikh. So he is just addressing himself that way. Gurbani mentioned Bhagat Dhanna ji, as Dhanna Jatt, because he was a Jatt from Dhaliwal clan of Jatts. Does that make him a non Sikh? Is it wrong? No. The entire point is that despite being from any background, you can still be under One’s command which is the truth. Rest of the details that we are discussing are petty.

I hope this post will be helpful.

Jat The High Kicking

(For nonSikhs – this Sikh practices a different type of Sikhi than I do – I am pro-SRM – but then again, can’t argue that colonial influence of Sikhi was racist and oppressive and that the Brit. Victorians have a hell of a lot to answer for. I am of Irish descent. Don’t get me going!)

I do not find it offensive being called jatt sikh, it is descrivbes my culture and sikh.

Also not using castes is something preached by colonial British Raj Lahore Tat Khalsa Singh Sabha (and now mainstream) neo sikhs and not traditional or sanatan sikhs. Again neo sikhs follow “religion” anmd want to belong to tribalisitic religion and follow sikh”ism”. Traditional sikhs do not follow religon and rather follow dharma/dharam, and end of the day we r all humans and sikh hindu muslim are all labels, but that doesn’t mean i can stop calling myself jatt.

Also the SRM or sikh rehit maryada u talk abput is probably the the SGPC maryada endorsed by the Akal Takht, am I right? Because firstly this maryada is not followed by nihangs, nor is it recognised by their headquarters of Budda Dal. In fact Nihangs they do not even see them as real khalsa and jut as mlecch khalsa, the Akal Takht is being occupied by neo-sikhs since the 1920s. Nihangs and nirmalas r the true khalsa. Buddha Dal rehat maryada is the most authentic maryada around.

Again jatt sikh is only an oxymoron to neo-sikhs because to them Sikh is a religion label in the western context.

http://www.sarbloh.info/htmls/sikh_nang2.html

‘One time the complete being [Guru Gobind Singh] said these words:
“In a hundred years my Panth [Khalsa] will reach adulthood. As adulthood increases and [Panth] matures, many are the vices that are found. Which vices?
All castes will force their way into the Sikh nation, even the Malesh [filthy]. All the bad people will force their way into the Sikh nation. They will look like Sikhs but their actions will be of thieves, deceivers and Malesh. To look at, they will be Sikhs but, their actions will be of evil with the forbidden five [5 cults, ie. the Dhir Malia, Ram Rais, Masands, and Minas]. Those, cutting their hair who have become apostate [from the Khalsa faith] will have relations, and believe in the five Pirs [Muslim holy men]. Not trustworthy, misers, known as slanderers, evil persons, highway men, Guruless, speakers of evil words, etc., such [characters] in appearance they will seem as intelligent wise Sikhs”.’
(‘Rehitnameh’, Piara Singh Padam, Pa.121-122)

And this is how sikhi was actually followed back in the day. People followed their tribal traditions INCLUDING their own types of marital ceremonies and their own cultures. It was tolerant. In that society theer would have been noproblem in being called jatt- sikh.

http://www.sarbloh.info/htmls/article_samparda_sanatan4.html

‘The Sikhism preached by the people such as Khem Singh Bedi and Avatar Singh Vahiria is difficult to envisage today, so comprehensive has been their defeat by the Tat Khalsa. For them Sikhism tolerated variety and upheld the right of Sikhs to participate in folk religion. Caste was maintained and idol worship was tolerated. There were different forms of marriage for different castes and different rituals could be practised by various members of the Panth. All manners of customs, such as those involving astrology, horoscopes and incantation, were acceptable. Visits to the sacred shrines of Hindus and Muslims as well as those of the Guru’s were entirely approved. Sanatan leaders might not follow these customs themselves, but certainly they were prepared to tolerate them in others. They were part of the immense variety which characterized the world they had known and the world they hoped would continue. All this was anathema to the Tat Khalsa. Sikhism could not possibly be as broad and as tolerant as Sanatan Sikhs believed.’
‘Sikhism’, by Hew McLeod, 1997, Pa. 77

So remember, 1920s, tat khalsa and British Raj, this is the kind of sikh”ism” u see, not the traditional kind taught by Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Kamalla Rose Kaur :

I am happy to call people whatever they choose to be called. On the Sikh forums where I hang out people don’t talk about being Jatt or the like and I came to understand from general reading that Jat was a caste. Frankly you wouldn’t be spending so much time educating others. if this were not a common thought.

I am happy to be put straight and call people whatever they choose to be called. I do not care. I do not mean that I do not care about you as individuals, were I to meet you and get to know you, but as a group I see you as fellow Sikhs only. This comes from being a stressed and striving USAer and surrounded by so many people from all sorts of cultures that I do not have time to come to understand all of them that well this life. Which I hate in truth. I enjoy reading your posts for sure.

Again my focus of study is on the SGGS and local activism; and Sikh Women’s Right’s activism.

Lord Jatt writes:

Hi KamallaRoseKaur,

To your Topic “Jatt as tribe, Jat as caste….” I find this discussion interesting so let me add my viewpoints to this.

Sikhism and in this instance … the other Eastern tradition of Buddhism etc that deal specifically against the Caste System have specifically prohibited Discrimination based upon Caste (or Tribal or Racial). Perhaps no other religion has attacked and even at one time successfully annihilated most of the Caste System as Buddhism has in history. But Buddha is still referred to as SakaMuni (Sanskrit: Sakya Muni) meaning The ‘Silent One’ Sage of the Saka (Sakya) Tribe. Same within Sikhism. The Dasam Granth’s Bachittar Natak has details in which Guru Gobind Singh describes the origins of his Sodhi Khatri Clan. The Bani of Dhanna Bhagat in SGGS specifically refers to him as Dhanna Jatt.

Obviously, Sikhism’s position to one’s Tribe is clear – Identifying yourself with your Tribe and loving its customs is Not bad – Discriminating others on Caste/Tribal basis is bad.


“On the Sikh forums where I hang out people don’t talk about being Jatt or the like and I came to understand from general reading that Jat was a caste. ” – KRK

There are few of these “Sikh” forums that are doing more of a dis-service to Sikhism than anything good. Once a while you get to see few individuals on these forums who have their own Jatt-Hate agenda and purposely spread misinformation against Jatts and their customs. What’s annoying is that they even go to the extent of misinterpreting Sikhism to express their hatred for Jatts. This is Cowardice.


“Frankly you wouldn’t be spending so much time educating others. if this were not a common thought (that Jatt is a caste)” – KRK

I agree this misinterpretation is indeed a Common Thought. To counter it, JattWorld was created in the first place.

“I do not care. I do not mean that I do not care about you as individuals, were I to meet you and get to know you, but as a group I see you as fellow Sikhs only.” -KRK

That’s equally good. I’m sure most of the Jatt Sikhs always tend to seperate Religion and Culture. In the sense that these are not mixed together to create a hotch potch. The term “Jatt Sikh” is used more in the sense … meaning – “A Jatt who follows Sikhism and is a Sikh” and NOT in the sense of a “seperate kind of Sikh professing a different type of Sikhism”. So in religious sense, say, a Jatt Sikh would almost always call himself a Sikh but in the cultural sense would he use the term Jatt Sikh.

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Playing With Nonprofits in Happy Valley

Tip Johnson

Playing With Nonprofits in Happy Valley

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My New Cause; I Mean Class – Storytelling! by Kamalla Rose Kaur

storytelling2

My New Cause; I Mean Class – Storytelling!

by Kamalla Rose Kaur

Ever have a political issue land right in your lap? Ever been called up to defend a cause, out of the blue? Like it suddenly pops up daily, or oftener? You can’t help yourself? You are passionately perturbed and find yourself voicing it? Loudly? You ever go from zip to full activism overnight?

That’s my Storytelling class at Western Washington University! No, no, not the class itself. The class is fantastic, awesome, powerful, profound, well-taught, well-attended, very difficult, and simply too much fun. Challenging. Tough. Frightening. A hell of a lot of work and yes, yes, I admit it! It is a total joy and blast.

Point is that my Storytelling class at WWU is not “basket-weaving.”

Please understand that I am an older woman now. Which is to say that I am a very serious student. I am not cute, not chic, nor stupid. I am well read and well educated. I have raised three children. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I may be childlike, but I am not childish. Many WWU professors are the age of my daughters – in their 30s – and most of my fellow students are the age of my son – 20. I am not age-ist rather I simply wish readers to take my words very seriously. Bellingham is my hometown and my Daddy was a professor at WWU right up to the year he died. He taught statistics and he was a fine storyteller.

So believe me please, I know many people in this town, on and off campus, and I am being asked daily; “How’s university life? What classes are you taking?”

I answer, “I love going to WWU. My professors are brilliant women – world class teachers. I am taking Women in Literature, Creative Nonfiction Writing and Storytelling.

And then it happens!

“Ha ha, ha.” They chuckle. “Storytelling? Is that a class? That sounds fun and easy.”

I experience this daily, often several times a day. Even fellow students and professors and administrators on campus seemingly assume that Storytelling is an easy class. Several people have actually mentioned basket-weaving, and smirked – as if basket-weaving is so f%##king unworthy and infantile and lacking in cultural meaning, unworthy of our interest? I rarely swear, but REALLY!

As for Storytelling, why do people imagine that storytelling is a lightweight topic? At the risk of sounding matronizing, nay even patronizing, I am here to briefly but completely rub reader’s faces in some obvious reasons why storytelling as a subject – and why my Storytelling class in particular – might be as weighty, important, challenging and deserving of honor and respect as even math, or psychics, or logic, or philosophy classes at WWU and elsewhere!

“Throughout human history, stories have been used to pass on the wisdom and values of society as well as to nourish and strengthen the minds and spirits of those listening.” (Porcino, John, “Stories, the Teaching Tool.” Spinning Tales Weaving Hope; Stories of Peace, Justice and the Environment. Brody et.al. New Society Publishers, Philadelphia PA. 1992. 11- 21)

My Storytelling class is my hardest class, though my professor’s demands on her students are reasonable; we accept them. Storytelling is not an easy subject. Not only must we learn to stand up with no notes, no memorization, and tell stories extemporaneously (you think that might be a useful skill to learn?) but we also have to read and choose stories to perform. Our professor warns us that we will read 5-10 stories for every one story we might actually desire to share.

She knows, she knows, and she is right, absolutely right! After all we get video-taped. We don’t want to perform just any old story; we need the right story; the best story for us, the perfect one for right now. Is it so hard to imagine that many of us read as many as 30 folktales before we find the one we wish to risk performing in front of a live as well as video audience?

We watch those videos and we write evaluations of ourselves and we write evaluations of our classmates.

And beyond collecting stories, performing stories, and writing skillful evaluations, my storytelling professor naturally requires us to read books about storytelling.

I am not complaining about the work. Doing a bit of research into the art of storytelling , or the anthropology of storytelling, or storytelling through song and music, or dance, or storytelling in business settings, or how to sell product with stories, or the history of storytelling, religious stories, depth psychology, teaching math with stories and so forth, are all interesting and important academic pursuits.

“Folklore is not some frivolous drivel of the primitive (read savage) mind, nor unscientific, misunderstandings and concoctions that reduce the quality of life. Folklore, the result of a different, but equally legitimate, kind of inquiry, understands the universe through the devices of metaphor and emotion. It is not bad science; it is simply not about science. Its principle mode of investigation operates by direct human participation in the great mysteries of the cosmos. Its purpose is to provide human communities with ways of living in nature, not of controlling it.” (Rietz, Livo. Storytelling Folklore Sourcebook. Libraries Unlimited, Englewood, CO. 1929. 4)

I am an English Literature and Creative Writing major; subjects clearly based on storytelling. History, Sociology, Psychology, Journalism, and Anthropology are also storytelling and story reporting pursuits. Frankly it is difficult to educate humans without employing effective storytelling and it is easy to educate humans using stories.

Storytelling is also the heart and soul – or rather, the bottom line – of marketing and sales. I was amused to read the following advertisement out on the internet:

“Storytelling: Passport to Success in the 21st Century

Why is there a resurgence of interest among today’s business and organizational leaders in the ancient art of storytelling at a time when electronic communications might seem to make it obsolete? Human beings have been communicating with each other through storytelling since we lived in caves and sat around campfires exchanging tales. What is new today about the art of telling stories is the purposeful use of narrative to achieve a practical outcome with an individual, a community, or an organization.” (http://www.creatingthe21stcentury.org/ )

Since when is it “new” to use stories to sell products or organizations? The whole field of Advertising is nothing but storytelling with the agenda to inspire us to buy services and products.

Storytelling is primal and basic to being human.

“Stories have to be told, to be expressed, for they are part of the narrative quality of existence that can be shared and that therefore compensate for all that cannot be shared. “…When we tell our tales, we give away our souls’ (p.940). …We are our stories. We become our stories. (p.115). (Doty, W. “Stories of our times” Ed. J. W. Wiggins. Religion as Story . New York: Harper and Row. 1975).

My professor tells us that when she attends academic conferences she makes it a point to tell half of the people she meets that her field is “Oral Narrative in History, Culture, and Society.” To the other half she declares, “I teach Storytelling.” The resulting respect, and the snubs she receives amuse her. She can fight back, of course, because she is a world class storyteller and therefore as soon as she decides to address the group. I assure you, even the stuffiest dusty egotists gather round. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University, speaks about the profound social and political power of storytelling in his book “Leading Minds, An Anatomy of Leadership”.

“In recent years, social scientists have come to appreciate what political, religious, and military figures have long known; that stories (narratives, myths, or fables) constitute a uniquely powerful currency in human relationships. . . . And I suggest, further, that it is stories . . . of identity — narratives that help individuals think about and feel who they are, where they come from, and where they are headed — that constitute the single most powerful weapon in the leader’s . . . arsenal.’” (Gardner, Howard. “Leading Minds, An Anatomy of Leadership” Basic Books. New York. 1995.)

So why is Storytelling devalued in our culture?

One reason may be that many assume that storytelling involves parents, elementary school teachers and librarians reading out loud, from picture books, to small children. This is not at all what my Storytelling class is about, of course – but even if it were, what is so f@^*&% unimportant about that subject either?

Or maybe we can blame boring, boring, boring academic lecturers; often even scientists. Obviously professors who are exciting and engaged and brilliant (like my late Papa) tell wonderful stories about science and scientists.

“Science seems to be afraid of storytelling, perhaps because it associates narrative with long, untestable yarns. Stories are perceived as “just” literature. Worse, stories are not reducible to mathematics, so they are unlikely to impress our peers.

This fear is misplaced for two reasons. First, in paradigmatic science, hypotheses have to be crafted. What are alternative hypotheses but competing narratives? Invent them as fancifully as you can. Sure, they ought to avoid explicit violations of reality (such as light acting like a particle when everyone knows it’s a wave?), but censor those stories lightly. There is time for experiment—by you or others—to discover which story holds up better.


The second reason not to fear a story is that human beings do science. A person must decide what molecule is made, what instrument built to measure what property. Yes, there are facts to begin with, facts to build on. But facts are mute. They generate neither the desire to understand, nor appeals for the patronage that science requires, nor the judgment to do A instead of B, nor the will to overcome a seemingly insuperable failure. Actions, small or large, are taken at a certain time by human beings—who are living out a story “

(Hoffman, Roald. “Storied Theory – Science and stories are not only compatible, they’re inseparable, as shown by Einstein’s classic 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect” American Scientist, Volume: 93 Number: 4 Page: 308 )

My professor lent me a couple volumes of “Storytelling, Self and Society; An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Storytelling Studies” which is an academic journal. It is an extremely scholarly journal – but, truth is, excellence in storytelling is naturally compelling, and therefore a fun read. I enjoyed every article. In one of the journal’s articles (“Storytelling and Organizations” by Jo A. Tyler – a professor at Penn State, formerly a Vice President of Armstrong World Industries) Dr. Tyler tells a personal story about being interviewed for a high level corporate job. After sharing some details about how tedious the interviewing process was, and how stupid the questions, she writes:

“Finally in the afternoon, there is a question that interests me. It comes from the hiring manager.

‘Jo, you’re the head of Organization and Management Development for a Fortune 500 company. How do you interpret your job?’

I feel ready for this question, as ready as if I have been willing them to ask it.

‘I’m a storyteller.’

There is a moment when my response hangs in the air, like words in a cartoon bubble. But then the hiring manager smiles. He exhales slightly, leans back, and blows the words with an invitation.

‘How so?’

It is an invitation to tell a story, or two.”

Storytelling is THAT powerful. We all know that storytelling is THAT powerful too. Why deny it?

Of course, it is possible that Storytelling is simply too much fun to take seriously. Is it more recreation that scholastics?

Or is storytelling as an academic pursuit looked down upon because anyone can tell a story and everyone does in fact tell stories? Is it because professors are often horrible storytellers, while humble working class folk often excel at it? Is it a women’s discipline? Is it a childish subject? Or are other races better at storytelling than people of European descent?

If so, what total crap! These are class-ist, racist, age-ist and sexist perceptions which makes storytelling a political issue that demands that good people, like you and me, respond as activists.

Pete Seeger says in his book on storytelling, “More and more, it seems we’re becoming a nation of spectators. On Sunday we watch professional athletes instead of playing ourselves; on weeknights we watch professional jesters instead of tickling ourselves, and on weekdays we tune the radio to professional music makers instead of singing ourselves.” (Seeger, Pete. Pete Seeger’s Storytelling Book Harcourt, Inc. 2000. 7)

Likewise when scholars study the stories of humanity but discount and resist becoming better storytellers – how smart is that?

Western Washington University is one of the first universities in the country to offer classes in Storytelling and make Storytelling a General Education Requirement. Good for us! Now how can we require that all our professors take my Storytelling class?

Because any instructor hired to profess any subject had better be able to teach utilizing the art and science of good storytelling lest he or she be graded by students and peers as being deadly – I mean DEADLY – dull – and thus stupid. Yes, I am actually recommending that every WWU professor take my Storytelling class and do the work – and speak out about it, and take a great deal of flack for it. Don’t imagine that you are too old or educated for this experience. Rather, GROW UP!

Be brave. Be humble. Get militant and take a stand for our species’ most unusual and powerful gift; the ability to share our experiences.

The capacity to tell our tales and tell them well is neither easy nor is it trivial.

I dare you! Weave a basket that holds water and lasts longer than your puny little lifetime.

Bibliography

Porcino, John, “Stories, the Teaching Tool.” Spinning Tales Weaving Hope; Stories of Peace, Justice and the Environment. Brody et.al. New Society Publishers, Philadelphia PA. 1992. 11- 21

Doty, W. “Stories of our times” Ed. J. W. Wiggins. Religion as Story . New York: Harper and Row. 1975

Hoffman, Roald. “Storied Theory – Science and stories are not only compatible, they’re inseparable, as shown by Einstein’s classic 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect” American Scientist, Volume: 93 Number: 4 Page: 308

“Storytelling: Passport to Success in the 21st Century” http://www.creatingthe21stcentury.org

Seeger, Pete. Pete Seeger’s Storytelling Book Harcourt, Inc. 2000. 4

Ross, Royal. Storyteller. August House Inc. Little Rock 1972

Gardner, Howard. “Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership”, Basic Books. New York. 1995

Tyler, Jo. Storytelling and Organizations. “Storytelling, Self and Society; An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Storytelling Studies” Florida Atlantic University, Volume 2, Number 2, 2006

Vohs, Rosemary. Woodring School of Education, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA, – my Storytelling professor, whom I conversed and communed with several times while writing this diatribe.

Rosemary

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