“Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination, and of the heart.” – Salman Rushdie
When I was a child, my grandfather told me my mother walked in her sleep when she was a child. He put a stop to this by scattering peanut shells outside her bedroom door.
My mother remembered the peanut shells only because she had heard the story. All she knew for sure was that she hadn’t sleepwalked since she was a child, reasoning that she simply grew out of it.
Were there ever any shells on the floor?
Within the story, the shells were real. In reality, they may not have been real. It doesn’t matter. The peanut shells exist simply because the story was told, and re-told, and told again. Many of our “realities” seem to originate in this way.
The storyteller knows this. In his bad of tricks, he has an infinite supply of once-upon-a times, ready made like rare medications, dangerous drugs, curses, and miracles to unleash upon your life when you’re ready for his cure to what ails you.
As Gordon Lightfoot sang in “Minstrel of the Dawn,” released in 1970, “And if you meet him you must be the victim of his minstrelsy.” We are our stories, true or not, and they sustain us for better and/or for worse.
Most people I know asked their parents and grandparents to tell them stories and to be read a story before bedtime. These stories morphed into dreams and ways of seeing the world.
These days, people try to kill the storyteller by claiming to be offended. All they have to do is stop listening or stop reading if the story isn’t to their liking. There’s not much opportunity for growth in that approach, but we can approach truths that way. After all, ignorance is the last bastion against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
One day, we might wake up when we step on a peanut shell we didn’t believe was there.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy and magical realism novels, including the upcoming novel “Lena” schedule for release August 1 from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.