I have just returned from teaching a five week community storytelling course in Cape Town. During that time I was sharing a house with two friends, working closely with my colleague, storyteller Gilly Southwood, spending five days a week in the company of 12 storytellers from all over South Africa, Thailand, the States, Canada and India and working three evenings a week as well. It’s always a busy time and I am grateful that at 62 I still have the energy to do something like this. Now I am back in Wales, living on my own in an apartment I moved into just before Christmas, where the internet has been down for the past two weeks, I don’t know my neighbours yet, all my work has cancelled and I am socially isolated like the rest of the UK. It’s easy to see that I have swung from together to alone, moving to still, busy to relaxed, working the polarities just like a good storyteller should!
Recently I spoke to my friend and colleague Vijji Chari who lives in Bangalore in India, a city of over 12 million people, famous (amongst other things) for its traffic. From 5am until past midnight, gridlock is common and everyone seems to want to be somewhere else. Vijji said to me, “it seems to me that all the traffic on the roads has immediately transferred to the internet.”
If a story just continued to carry on like that, full tilt, with barely a break, we would soon be breathless, overwhelmed and ultimately disconnected. The pause or the silence allows us to drop down to a deeper level, feel our emotions and our connection to each other. It’s interesting that in an art form which relies on speaking, it’s the pause that packs the punch. Perhaps the human story has become like that. Without the pause, we have become breathless, overwhelmed and disconnected from the things that really matter.
At this unique moment in time, whether you are alone or together, still have work or none, are feeling ill or well, I invite you to experience the power of the pause in the story of your life and the life of the world. Step away from the busyness of the traffic when you can and connect with the things you most care about, whatever they are: nature, the joy of family and community, the animals we share our lives with. Make the most of it, for one thing we can definitely say is that “this too shall pass”. And as all storytellers know, after the pause comes a new energy, a new impulse and sometimes even, a whole new story.
image: Dafydd Davies-Hughes