A Dangerous Story

dalai lama on paths

We may believe that stories are only stories. That they are fantasies thought of by innovative, clever minds.

Myths, legends and folklores are used both as educational aids and as past time entertainments listened to mostly by children. And we think these stories are harmless. To children with pliable minds, stories could be easily outgrown and discarded; thus could be harmless.

Adults, however, are different. Unlike children, many adults have fixed mindsets. They are hard to outgrow and let go of stories told  to them by formidable authorities. Out of fear or ignorance, adults tend to stubbornly stick to certain stories – for years, for lifetimes, for generations, for eons.

Stories are only stories, but when you give a man or a woman a story, he or she can become dangerous. Not only that stories are used as weapons but are also the source of much bigotry as when a singular story is glorified, defended, upheld as the one and only true story. People swear to fight for it, and die for it.

Stories are born of people’s actual experiences, as well as their delusions and fantasies. There exist all sorts of stories as there exist all sorts of people with all sorts of experiences. However, in the course of human history, there are a group of people who took upon themselves the authority to select certain stories and make these the “official” stories for all humanity to believe in. Their gods have become the official gods; their rituals are the only sanctioned rituals.

This select group of people act as the grown-up leaders to the rest of us who they regard as mere children to be herded. In order to propagate only one story, the story that serves and sustains them, they killed other competing stories. They burned ancient libraries, distorted the Teachings, and silenced and demonized other storytellers.

The singular story is being preached in pulpits, broadcasted in the media, and taught in schools. It gained so much influence and many mouthpieces that it became almost impossible to think beyond its contents. Any other story that diverged and conflicted with the official story is branded as madness that must be destroyed before it spreads and poses a real threat.

As long as we keep believing in only one story, we are tuned in to only one limited frequency, which continues to trap us in a singular, limited reality. This reality is an invisible prison. This is why, in spite of our “authorized freedom”, many of us feel like we are not truly free.

Yes, stories are more than what we think they are. They are not only for entertaining children and the unsuspecting masses. Myths, legends, epics have always been cleverly used as mediums of control and manipulation.

So never take stories for granted.

 

public education

The River’s Journey

When I was not slumbering, I spent long hours sitting at the balcony looking out to the river of my hometown. Each time I sat there by myself, I imagined Grandmother telling me more stories about the River’s Journey.

“In its journey, the river undergoes many experiences and changes. It even changes its color and size. Here in our village, the color is usually what you see now, crystal and shiny reflecting the sun’s radiance. But depending on the life around it, a river may turn into other colors.

“In the olden times, when we didn’t have mirrors hanging on our walls, we went to the streams and rivers to look at our reflections. The river is our mirror ― as we are alive, breathing and moving, the river is also alive, breathing and moving. If you poison the river, you will in turn be poisoned by it. Like the healthy blood flowing inside our veins, the river is the blood of the earth, and as long as it is healthy and keeps flowing, all life on earth is nourished.

“The river may grow big and may also shrink. It may unite with other rivers coming from different directions. If they find a common ground, two or more rivers unite to form a bigger and a more powerful river. Joined rivers travel for a while, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, sometimes forever. Often, after traveling together, joined rivers separate and go different ways. But they would no longer be the same as when they first met, for they would have already given and taken something from each other. It is like in a family, or between friends.

“You find a friend to share your journey of life with. You and your friend walk some distance and you give and take and share and learn from each other. But a time may come when you may have to go your separate ways. When this moment comes, you would no longer be the same people as when you first met, for you would have added to each other’s experience in the journey.

“Maybe you have to part ways for the reason that you have different opinions on how to travel downstream. Perhaps your friend wants to explore more of the nooks and crannies of the big towns while you prefer to flow on the more laid back riverbeds of the countryside. You had a father, a mother, sisters, brothers and me. Some of us leave first. You continue the journey with your siblings, but as you are all grown up, you are drawn to explore different directions. Despite this, all of us, in the end, would eventually meet at the final destination and be reunited again as the one big family that we are.

Bakun waterfalls

Bakun, Benguet Philippines

 

“And when in your journey, you find yourself confused and agitated, or in a turbulent mood – when as if your emotions are like the river rapids – in a rough flow – so to speak, don’t resist where the current brings you next. Do not be discouraged or disturbed by constantly shifting landscapes. Does the river get intimidated and perceive itself a victim when an immovable giant boulder blocks its course? No, the river simply curves smoothly around the obstacle and flows on.

“Does the river cringe in fright when it finds itself standing at the edge of a precipice? Certainly not. The river takes a leap of faith; it is then that the murmuring river becomes the roaring mighty waterfalls! It survives the leap and discovers more of itself – its abilities and possibilities.

“The river knows that after a rough flow, a smooth flow awaits for it, right at the next bend. And when there is not much happening and the river is smoothly flowing, does the river complain of boredom? Again, no. The river takes such quiet moments as opportunities to get itself clear. So you see? The river yields and yet it is invincible. The river can tap into its ancient spirit’s wisdom, and know, that this is truth.”

“The river’s spirit is ancient?” I suddenly reacted.

“Only as a way of talking, we may say that some rivers are quite old, having been flowing on the surface of this earth for a very long, long time. Yet we may also speak of rivers which are newly fashioned. An old river has already smoothed and refined many jutting rocks and rough stones, so those parts of it coming later may follow the same path without wounding themselves too much.”

I sensed Grandmother’s presence and wisdom as I channeled more of her River’s Story in these imagined conversations. I felt greatly relieved from my illness of pathological pessimism.

Excerpted from: Becoming Mad and Asking Why the River is Flowing by Allu Kuy. 

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