Passing Through: Weekly Photo Challenge

In,

over,

through,

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(Oops! Missed some.)

and out.

Read this many years ago. Presume it’s from the Sufi tradition of teaching stories.

Years ago, a young backpacker set off travelling to new places.

Arriving in an distant city, he learned that a famous sage was speaking that night in the great hall. The young man decided to go along. An audience of over a thousand people heard the sage talk and many were as inspired as he was. They gathered outside in the square to talk late into the night about what they had heard and to plan their future.

Over the next two days, the traveller asked everyone he met how he might meet the sage in person. Three days later, he was taken to the place where the man had lived all his life. He rang the bell tentatively.

Stepping in the doorway, the young man noticed the home’s bare walls and basic furniture. The sage came forward and greeted him warmly. Together they sat by the fire to drink tea and talk.

After some hours, the traveller stood to thank his elder and bid him farewell. His host was curious to know what was had surprised him the most.

“You are so famous. People shower you with gifts. I expected you to live in grand style. ”

“You arrived with only a backpack!” retorted the sage.

“Yes, but I am only passing through,” muttered the young man.

“So am I,” replied his host.

Transient
All text and photos © Meg Philp are protected by Australian Copyright Law. If you wish to use any images. Please contact me thru Comments. Pass the story on. Thanks.

PS. And then there’s the song a Canadian teacher sang to me on the verandah of the Migrant Hostel in 1975 – the chorus is stuck in my mind.

 “Passing through, Passing through, … Glad that I ran into you, Tell the people that you saw me passing through.”

Google now tells me it was written by Richard Blakeslee and sung by Pete Seeger! … Learn something new every day!

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

What Motivates Characters ?

As a storyteller I imagine that the characters in the story I am telling are real. I can see them in my mind’s eye. They have human qualities. As I prepare a story for retelling, I’m often stopped in my tracks wondering “Why did they do this  … and not that?

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There’s a Sufi story Idriess Shah retells about a group of villagers discovering something they’d never seen before in the middle of their wheat field. They thought it was a monster and ran for their lives. 

Life does bring the unexpected. Wandering in a garden, I  wondered what made gardeners do this?

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Then one day, a knowing stranger came along. When he crept up to investigate the monster he saw it was a watermelon. But pretending he was a brave warrior, he jumped up and killed it : chopped it to pieces. The villagers were amazed. When he then began to eat it noisily, they were horrified and feared they might be next! So they chased him out of the area.

This world is full of differences; new; strange; unfamiliar.

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There are sights that can arouse assumptions. Who are the flowers for … and why?
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Why did they leave these behind? Did they have fun stomping on the cans?

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“What possessed the makers to dye these cheeses?

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Recently, my sister told me she’d watched the completion of beautiful mural near the Paris flat where we were staying. Next day, what I saw wasn’t what I expected. Why did he do this?

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Some days later another traveller walked into the village and heard about their monster in the wheat field. When he saw how frightened they were, he crept to the field alongside them and having seen the watermelon, said they were right to be afraid and together they ran back to the village. He stayed with them for a while and every day, bit by bit, he told them all the facts that he knew about watermelons … until the time came when the villagers were no longer afraid and they started cultivating those strange fruits themselves.  

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© Meg Philp

Thankfully, characters’ motives in folktales are made really obvious.  Balance must be restored and problems solved in a shortened space of time . Each character’s desires are made clear from the beginning. They want to change, to go out and seek their fortune :  to move from ill fortune to good fortune,  from fear to confidence, from doubt to trust. They want to live well.

When observing people’s actions in real life, their motivation is not easy to fathom.

Perhaps that’s why people tell stories. By learning from a safe distance what others feel like –  through the story’s characters, their choices and possibilities for action – we are learning how to live well, together, before any “monsters” appear.

I can learn about myself and others by putting myself in the character’s place. As the poet W.H Auden once said,

The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.

What do you think?

All text and photos by Meg

NB. I read this Idries Shah’s story recently but I can’t remember where. You can find Sufi stories in his collections like –

Tales of the Dervishes: teaching-stories of the Sufi Master over the past thousand years, London, Octagon Press, 1982

 Story Twigs …! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.