Orality And Storytelling – Matters Of The Heart

“Why story and storytelling?” Thomas Boomershine asked in his book Story Journey. “Story is a primary language of experience. Telling and listening to a story has the same structure as our experience,” he said. “The episodes of our lives take place one after another just like a story. One of the ways we know each other is by telling our stories. We live in stories.” He continued: “Storytelling creates community. Persons who tell each other stories become friends. And men and women who know the same stories deeply are bound together in special ways. Furthermore, good stories get retold and from an ever-expanding storytelling network. There is something about a good story that virtually demands retelling. New connections are established between persons who have heard and identified with the same stories. And the deeper meaning of the story, the deeper are the relationships that are formed by the sharing.”

“The heart does not respond to principles and programs; it seeks not efficiency, but passion,” said authors Brent Curtis and John Eldredge in their book The Sacred Romance. “Art, poetry, beauty, mystery, ecstasy: These are what rouse the heart. Indeed, they are the language that must be spoken if one wishes to communicate with the heart. … Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes. Story is the language of the heart. Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract proportions of systematic theology; they speak the images and emotions of story.”

Without intellectual assent or intentional behavioral change, the stories enter the heart and affect change. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, said that much later, after one hears a story, he or she proclaims “what are these doing here?” but then finds oneself embracing the truths embedded within the stories. “All of a sudden we see things and people we had never noticed before,” he said. “We hear words and sentences that make sense of what we’ve had intimations of but couldn’t quite place.” Curtis and Eldredge conclude, “The deepest convictions of our heart are formed by stories and reside there in the images and emotions of story.”

Cultural anthropologist Charles Kraft said, “For solid changes to happen throughout a culture, people must make basic changes in the worldview of that culture. Just as a tree can only grow as the roots allow it to, so a culture and the society that lives by that culture can only function as well as their ‘worldview-habits’ allow them to.” However, he warned that change in worldview-habits needs to be accompanied by a change in behavior. “Changes in both the cultural structuring of the basic assumption and in the personal living out of those assumptions need to take place,” he said.