In my copy of Barry Lopez Crossing Open Ground there is a yellow sticky commenting on this passage dealing with the effects of shared storytelling.
I felt exhilaration, and a deeper confirmation of the stories. The mundane tasks which awaited me I anticipated now with pleasure. The stories had renewed in me a sense of purpose of my life.
This feeling, an inexplicable renewal of enthusiasm after storytelling, is familiar to many people. It does not seem to matter greatly what the subject is, as long as the context is intimate and the story is told for its own sake, not forced to serve merely as the vehicle for an idea. The tone of the story need not be solemn. The darker aspects of life need not be ignored. But I think intimacy is indispensable — a feeling that derives from the listener’s trust and a storyteller’s certain knowledge of his subject and regard for his audience. This intimacy deepens if the storyteller tempers his authority with humility, or when terms of idiomatic expression, or at least the physical setting for the story, are shared.
“Landscape and Narrative”
The yellow sticky (written no doubt at a time I was taking Brian Stock’s seminar on Augustine) references the vision at Ostia in the Confessions which is a case of another occasion where storytelling works its magic.
And when our discourse was brought to that point, that the very highest delight of the earthly senses, in the very purest material light, was, in respect of the sweetness of that life, not only not worthy of comparison, but not even of mention; we raising up ourselves with a more glowing affection towards the “Self-same,” did by degrees pass through all things bodily, even the very heaven whence sun and moon and stars shine upon the earth; yea, we were soaring higher yet, by inward musing, and discourse, and admiring of Thy works; and we came to our own minds, and went beyond them, that we might arrive at that region of never-failing plenty, […]
Book IX, The Confessions
Translated Edward Bouverie Pusey
I could leave the comparison in this simple juxtaposition. But I want to signal that I have a hunch that the phenomenology of the affect generated by shared storytelling follows a path whereby one’s concentration moves from names to things to relationships. The hunch comes from a hint in another of Lopez’s essays “Children in the Woods” in which he muses on the brightest children being fascinated by metaphor. This is how he sets it up:
I think children know that nearly anyone can learn the names of things; the impression made on them at this level is fleeting. What takes a lifetime to learn, they comprehend, is the existence and substance of myriad relationships: it is these relationships, not the things themselves, that ultimately hold the human imagination.
And I would like to tell that the relationships include the narration – the bond between storyteller and audience – which in its potential for self-referentiality can entrance well past the thousandth and one night into a “region of never-failing plenty”.
And so for day 1318