Lighted Travel

I’ve noticed that if I’m flipping through television channels looking for something to watch, and I happen on a scene where a man has a gun pointed at someone’s face, I usually pause in my flipping. The same is true if I land on a scene of a man and woman in the act. In both cases I know absolutely nothing about the context for what I am seeing. I don’t know if the man with the gun is a villain or a hero, if he’s crazed or courageous; I also don’t if the man and the woman are in love or if they’ve just met at a bus stop. All I know is that someone might die, or that two people are having sex.

This to me highlights a storyteller’s dilemma: no one wants to die and everyone wants to have sex. It’s a dilemma because every storyteller wants to take hold of his or her reader’s attention and, if possible, never let it go until the story is completely told. This is not always so easy to do for many reasons, not the least of which is that what holds your attention might not hold mine. Everyone’s on their own journey, looking for what lights their own path. Stories are always a part of that journey, because for a story to be successful it must point the reader in a specific direction. If that direction aligns with the reader’s journey, the reader has found a light by which to travel.

That’s a beautiful connection, but also a mysterious one. Meanwhile, storytellers have bills to pay and egos to satisfy. Oh, what to do? How tempting to lean on sex and death, the twin gods of creation and extinction. How easy to view everything in between these two as mere prelude or interlude. Finally, how ultimately unsatisfying.

It’s no coincidence that sex and death focus on the body’s pleasure and the body’s destruction. I like my body, I’m happy to have it, but writing – and reading – teaches me every day that my body is in fact a vessel and nothing more. It cannot tell me where to go; at best, it can tell me where I am. The lights I’m looking for when I’m writing or reading or just living can only be seen in my mind. Fortunately, as a storyteller I have learned that if the light is bright enough it was never meant for me alone, and if I render it clearly I can offer it to my fellow travelers.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.