The Power of Stories
“Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob, blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his son and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down
and brings up a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?
Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens a door to the other world.
Solomon cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop.
Now there’s a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins
Suddenly he’s wealthy.
But don’t be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth,
without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.
Start walking towards Shams.
Your legs will get heavy and tired.
Then comes a moment of feeling the wings you’ve grown,
Jelaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)
Michael Meade says that inside stories are stored those important things that people keep forgetting. What stories do our lives tell that remind others of things they are forgetting, or remind us of what we may have forgotten ourselves.
As the stories of our lives unfold, what tales are important to us? What touches us, what reminds us that we are more than what we see in the mirror, more than the thoughts running around inside us. As we live out the arc of our own history, some fables in the form of music, poetry, novels, plays, or films I think link us to something deeper. What these stories are, are a clue to that deeper reality – and a clue to what drives us to express and explore and act in this world as we cycle through it. What drives us to unfold our own myth, as Rumi suggests.
The following are a few films that tell stories that touch me. I tend to feel my way through ideas. If the movie has a story or a metaphor that reaches me emotionally, then I tend to embrace it without necessarily being able to explain it. (The double edged sword of being wired as an INFP). These stories are my own clues to the mystery of my life, I suppose. Why they make me feel so deeply is not as important as the fact that they do.
This first clip is from ‘Heaven’ based on a screenplay co-written by the late Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski. Originally intended to be the first part of a trilogy based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, this production was directed by the German director, Tom Tykwer – one of my favorite filmmakers who took on the project after Kieslowski’s death. The film incorporates and intertwines themes of guilt, redemption, synchronicity, love and fate.
Cloud Atlas, based on the book by David Mitchell, was co-directed by Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings. It layers six different stories in six different eras with characters that it suggests are part of a mosaic that are connected with each other throughout their respective histories. Can your actions have repurcussions into the future, into a future incarnation? Karma, reincarnation, facets of the soul, The Jewel Net of Indra, synchronicities and the question of whether time is linear or cyclical are the creative concepts this film tries to explore.
Gravity, the masterwork directed by Alfonso Cuaron is about a woman adrift in space separated from the earth and separated from the gift of her life she had abandoned. A marvel of technical achievement that also asks if we have the fortitude after living in the safety of the womb to venture out into the dangers and challenges that life brings. The idea of death and rebirth, the power of our sacred animal natures, the raw heart of our courage – are all called into question. This is a must see.
These films are a few of my personal favorites. If you haven’t seen them and are intrigued by the clips shown here, perhaps you will give them a try.