In the beginning was the story.1
And the story was enough.
From the Jewish tradition comes the tale of the great Rabbi Eli and his disciples. Each year, the great Rabbi travelled into the forest to a particular place, lit a fire, and said a prayer for the peace and prosperity of his community. Eventually he died, and his student Reb Kochba was moved to imitate the master in his annual prayer. He went into the forest, but was unable to find the place of Reb Eli’s prayer. He chose a place at random, lit the fire and said the prayer, praying that although he could not be sure of the location, that his prayer would be enough. And it was.
Time passed. Rabbi Kochba grew old and died. His disciple Rabbi Israel also felt called to imitate the prayer of his teachers. He went into the forest, knowing that he would not be able to find the place of the prayer. In Reb Kochba’s time, the community had become urbanised and had forgotten the skills of the forest. Reb Israel was unable to light the fire. He said the prayer, praying that although he could neither find the place, nor light the fire, that his prayer would be enough. And it was.
Years passed. Rabbi Israel also died. His disciple the wise Rabbi Shlomo was lame and unable to travel. Yet he too desired to imitate his forebears. Reb Shlomo could not walk to the forest, he could not light the fire, he did not know the place, and he did not know the words of the prayer. But he knew the story. He prayed that it would be enough. And it was.
A story transports so much into our daily lives. Much of what stories deliver to us is so important and so close to us that we often do not recognise the source of these every day insights.
Stories are Big Rigs
Huge articulated trucks called road trains constantly cross our vast continent. These freight to us our food and daily necessities. They are extraordinary vehicles. 200 times longer than a family car, their power is legion. Often they can be seen weaving in and out of freeway traffic at speeds well above the limit of 100 kilometre per hour.
The road trains generate deep fascination. The cabin portion, called in Australia the prime mover, and in America, the tractor, is in itself a complex vehicle, fitted with a bunk, microwave and refrigerator as its basic comforts, and capable of prodigious speed and feats of power. Magazines praising the romance of the big rigs line the racks of newsagencies.
The road train is a metaphor of the power and sheer efficacy of story in our lives. Both are capable of bringing rich cargoes to us which give us energy for our daily lives. Stories can carry colossal freights of theology and philosophy and meaning-making in a form which we can use.
Road trains have their limitations. In theory trucks can travel anywhere at all. For all practical purposes, however, they need a well-marked road with a good surface. Equally stories need to traverse well-travelled paths in the common imagination. Stories that have too little connection with other well-known stories will find that too much of their power is required simply to move the plot along. Stories that make connections for us are able to carry hefty loads of emotion and meaning deepening our usable store of human psychology and wisdom.
Road trains may be dangerous. In the hands of inexperienced drivers, they may careen off the road spilling their freight unusable well before its destination. Stories also may veer off the track entertaining airily without delivering insight to those who hear them.
Stories are enough.
Powerful, elegant, useful, they reach right into the depths of who we are and work a wonderful chemistry, changing and enlarging our understanding of what it means to be human in God’s world. As prime movers, they lodge deep in our sub-conscious providing fuel to light our paths towards more humane living.
The stories on this web-site are road trains. They cross well-travelled routes in our imagination, for each of them is based on a Biblical story or image.
Each of them has a freight of emotion and theology, which is easy to discern and from which it is easy to choose what is useful for you.
Each of them is a romance, an enchantment in theme and character, and each is offered for your enjoyment. My prayer is that some of them may create for you new wisdom for living. I pray that the stories will be enough.
1 This is a possible translation of John 1:1. ho logos is usually translated as “the Word”, but ho logos means any spoken utterance, including a story. For example, ho logos is often translated as “story” in Matthew 28:15, John 4:39 and John 21:23.