Beyond My Window
A Story by Ian Holliday
Why am I here? You come and peer through the window at me and tell stories about me – and you do not know the reason? Do you not talk to each other? No, I suppose you don’t, or you might have realised.
Maybe I should tell you but I am unsure what would happen; although telling you might be part of what it’s all about and the chances of my answering must have been in the contingency plans. So, I will relate what I remember. But don’t treat it as “true” in any way, maybe I have been primed to tell you a lie.
I have been here for so many years I am unsure that I can recall the events clearly. Some things I do recall. I know it was a major occasion, an event which culminated from much discussion and planning among the Council members. There was an air of anxiety and heated talk; as though that which we relied upon was threatened. How can I help you to understand?
Think about what you do. Are the stories you tell about me, and others like me, original, really original? Are there any genuine storymakers left in your world? I think I see them sometimes, peering through that window and a worthwhile number seem to have the spark.
This is what I know and, as I said, it may be incomplete.
Imagine it, many millennia before your time, people used to ask themselves questions, or maybe the curiosity of their children raised those questions. So they made up stories to push the fears away, they found a way to make sense of their world. They looked around, they used their personal experience; they drew on the traditions of their kin and on everyday events, and they made up tales to fit the facts, tales that gave them a compass to find their way in a mysterious world. And, of course, small in number as they were, and separated by geographical boundaries, each group had its own stories and, in their way, each story worked for a time, until a new story took its place.
Some few hundred years ago, something happened. From our perspective, it suddenly appeared that the number of new stories began to decline. The same stories quickly began to appear in different places, widely separated. And this process accelerated, until it seemed like people in one place could hear the story at the same time all over the world. But the stories were no longer “home-grown”; the story of one people was being told to another regardless of their circumstances, or their culture, values, history or the beliefs that had kept their various societies working. And so, people began to fight for their stories, fight to impose their tales on others.
Think about it. You make up a new story to fit where you live and the people and institutions you know. It has to do that, or it would be too unbelievable for your children. But your story is not a good fit for those who live elsewhere. They naturally challenge your story but you cannot see why, it makes perfect sense for you, they must be wrong! So you argue and you make war. Because, for others, it is your story that is fantastic and unbelievable and, maybe for a good reason (or so they believe) they also want to enlighten you, to save you from error. And so, it goes on.
Ultimately, of course, one set of stories began to win. Thus, many were forced to live in the tales of the powerful. For those who were ruled, the stories were badly made or badly told, they offered no guidance; they explained little or nothing. Time passed and, as the story-telling (note my careful use of that word, not the story—making) apparatus was in the hands of the powerful, their stories became the only ones that were told. Although, at first, the ruled knew why the stories were wrong, in the end nobody knew. They just felt a loss, a disconnection with their world.
And that is why I am here and why there are many who fulfil the same role. After much debate, the Council asked for some to come forward to take up a place, to engage in a form of theatre, to be here when people of your time are looking to be storymakers rather than storytellers. You see, Time does not exist in the mind of the true storymakers and, as they dream, they can reach us, can see us and wonder how we came to be where we are. And they make up tales, tales which are not those of the powerful, those with interests vested in keeping things as they are, tales which are rebellious, that increase the possibilities in their listeners lives – instead of narrowing their opportunities for striking out, changing things – being original; being themselves , not what the stories they usually hear, tell them to be.
For we realised that hearing the same bad story will not save your world (and, of course) ours from being the cause of its slow dis-ease and failure. Only in new stories lie the places where even more new ideas can arise. Only there can a thought be sown and nurtured which might save us all from extinction.
But me, others like me and I think even the Council, did not realise that once we were created, we had to stay. The new, saving stories, have to be told and retold, or they will die out and fail in their task of generating alternatives. It’s not so bad really. When you are not around, I get to eat well and have company. But I must always be ready, in case you appear at the window. Hasn’t anybody seen me brush the crumbs under my robe? Did you not see, this time, the gate swing to as my partner left the room in panic? And, in the end, I think it is worth it, even though, immortal as I have been made, this is me -forever.
A Story by Ian Holliday (Copyright 2010 Ian Holliday)