I want to throw out a couple thoughts to you all and see what you think. It has “something” to do with chronological storying, but it has more to do with the context in which we tell our stories.
First, as I have thought about and taught the secondary oral learners of rural Paraguay, I have seen that they are the kind of folks that like to see the “forest” before they see the “trees”. They need some context to hang each one of the stories on. This has lead us to develop a 30 minute story that spans creation to the new heavens and new earth. We use this story the first time we meet with someone who is interested.
If the family seems interested we ask them to think about it and then get a message back to the missionary telling him that they would like to continue on learning about what God says. It is at this point we have a six to nine story set that tell some of the major stories, again from creation to the new heavens and new earth. When these nine stories are finished we once again ask the family to think about if they would like to continue on learning and to think and talk about their decision and then send a messenger to the missionary telling him so. Then we begin another more in depth story set. And so on and so on, adding more detail to stories already learned and adding new stories.
I imagine it like painting a room with thin paint; I give it one coat, and then go over the same area again, but this time the color becomes a little more true, or the stories become a little more detailed and clear.
That’s what we are experimenting with right now. What do you think? Are there some pitfalls or advise you would want to give me? Are there some other questions that you would like to ask?
Now here is my guess about why this seems to be working here in PY. It has to do with rural folks’ perception of time or more to the point, how they measure time. This idea came to me years ago after reading a book by Jeremy Rifkin called “Time Wars” in his book he explores the history of how time has been measured. OK, hang in there with me.
I would venture to say that the more oral a culture is the larger their units of time might be. So a nomadic Sudanese group might measure time in large units, much like the “watches” we find in the Bible. Could it be that this cultures measure time in larger units because they have fewer unique life events during any given day? Now compare that with the rural farmers I have worked with, they are secondary oral learners, and there days are much more complicated and filled with many more unique life events each day, I think this has caused them to have smaller units of time, maybe down to a couple hours in length. OK, what do I think this has to do with storying?
In a tribal situation someone may story each day chronologically, and if their listeners measure time in large units then, according to the way they view time, the stories are happening in rapid succession, there is a connectiveness that carries the narrative along, they don’t have to be given the forest before the trees because the story teller is fluidly and continually building that forest.
Now in my situation, when I tried to story the Bible chronologically, I met with a group of farmers weekly. There were so many life events that happened between each story that even with continual review, all I was doing was throwing trees at them. I buried them with a disconnected broken narrative of logs. And I never gave them a chance to experience the forest. This is why we began to share stories like I mentioned before.
Well there is “my” story. Some of what I have said is pure conjecture, some of what I have said is from experience and reading, but I am interested in what some of you think. Can you help me winnow some of the bad ideas out and hone others so they are more clear? Thanks.
Just a reminder to stop by a group we have going here were we talk more about different pedagogues that we can use to teach oral learners. Click here to check it out