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The wounded storyteller.

He woke up from his siesta with a dream-story about the city of Leeds at night with a vivid milky way overhead. He didn’t have his notebook and anyway his eyes wouldn’t come into focus, so he couldn’t write it down. It was taking him longer than usual to wake up. He lay there awake but with his eyes closed.

He promised himself he’d remember the story and its magical aura, but he forgot it almost immediately. He just remembered the night sky and the feeling of an infinite magical universe.

Why Leeds? He didn’t know. He had never been there or wanted to go, even when his daughter married a boy from there when she was living in London.

He noticed a feeling of impossibility, of worry that it was fiction, this story, and therefore not something he would be able to complete. He never could finish his made-up stories, like it was a mountain he couldn’t climb, shouldn’t try to climb.He felt that telltale tension in the gut, that blank space in his mind, that old habit of an impulse to abandon the idea of creating a story. There was always the idea he wasn’t talented that way, that he should go back to what he knew he could do, write exposition.

But he still wanted to make a story, he wasn’t sure why. He dreamed stories. Everybody dreams stories. Why is it so farfetched to think it was possible to invent some beautiful fiction with words? Why would such a thing be impossible for him, of all people, who loved stories, loved words and language.

It didn’t make sense. It was just neurotic, he decided, something to be cured of. It was just an inhibition, a fixed idea from his school days.

He decided to cure himself. He would turn everything into a story. First he would tell about not being able to finish his beautiful stories, which everyone knows is a tragic thing.

He would call it “The Wounded Storyteller.” He would pursue the thinking and feeling that made telling stories impossible. The reason why it was impossible could only be some malformed construct in his own mind, like this strange belief that it was out of reach. Why should it be?

He began to tell stories of wounded storytellers who were telling stories of losing, then finding their ability to tell stories. He started by collecting old stories, fables, myths. There are so many! It’s hardly necessary to make them up.

He populated his mind with beautiful stories about buried treasures, lost children, evil rogues, brave young hearts and wise elders. He lived with these stories as if they were real memories of times he could actually recall. Sometimes he thought he did remember these things happening.

Often these stories seemed to be telling his personal story, the story of his fears and struggles. Some of the stories gave him hope and some worried him, the way they ended. But they were all strangely inspiring. Some even felt autobiographical.

As he read more and more stories, he began to notice the challenges and themes in his life, his particular struggles, and he thought of how he might deal with them differently. He wanted to enter into these stories and he wanted them to enter into him. He was like a child who wanted certain stories repeated again and again.

One night he dreamed the story of a man who lived in the north of England, in a time before electric lights when you could still see the starry sky at night. He was living there as a natural man in the countryside, close to the earth and sky and animals. He had taken instruction at Cambridge in literature and history, but he preferred to live out his life close to his roots there close to the Scottish border.

At the center of this dream-story was a feeling of life’s essence, the soul’s living meaning and beauty, but he couldn’t find the words to describe it. The meaning and beauty of the dream was obvious to him-the-dreamer, but how to talk about it?

His dream seemed to be showing what had been lost in our modern world. His vision of the panorama of creation and our place in it, of the obvious soul illumination in every form of life, was inexpressible in words, he thought.

His “soul-story” had existed on the margins of his mind all his life. It wanted to be told, to be written, because… Because what? He didn’t exactly know, it just seemed important, more than important.

Maybe it wasn’t his story. Maybe it was a story of a life-filled planet under threat of physical and spiritual death, an idea that sounds too ridiculous to even consider, he thought. But the contrast between the natural world of a fairly recent historical past and what the world had become in his lifetime was shocking. He didn’t feel up to the task of showing this idea via any written mode, much less a story.

Maybe some intelligence was urging him to tell this story. He rejected that idea as soon as it appeared in his mind. He simply wished to tell an amusing and entertaining story, not something possessed of a grand vision.

He recalled being told by a card reader, a certain Madame Hipple, that he was a natural visionary, but at the time he was too young to understand what she was driving at. He was only twenty years old.

He just wanted a girlfriend and not to fail in school.

Even now, when he thinks of it, he’s still not sure what she meant by using that word. In any case, he’s quite sure he doesn’t want to be a visionary. That sounds like a heavy load, one he doesn’t want to carry.

But certain things are fated, determined by the gods. Resistance is futile. Destiny will find you, regardless.

As his non-writing progressed, he eventually began to try writing “automatically,” meaning letting himself go, letting the words come. At first he was discouraged because he sounded like the prophets of old, sounding the alarm, telling folks to mend their evil ways.

But something strange began to creep into his discourse — an inventive play on words, jokes, off-color observations, fun, for lack of a better word. If the world was going to hell in a handbasket, he was going to dance all the way to hell. This devil-take-the-hindmost attitude got him in its grip and wouldn’t let go.

When he was young, he wanted to be a standup comedian. He wanted to hear laughter. He wanted high jinks and physical comedy, the more juvenile the better. He wanted defense against tragedy. He wanted to forget the pains of the world.

People saw his total commitment to absurdity when he was performing. He couldn’t keep the colors of tragedy from creeping in, but only just enough to give weight and substance to his efforts.

He couldn’t see that, he didn’t care about that. He only cared that he was becoming himself.


My publication is called Anima Fire:

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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