Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Thesis - Antithesis-Synthesis

In my recent course on Advanced Storytelling at East Tennessee State University, we discussed a variety of ways to organize story programs. One such way, is to use Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis as a schema for a storied discourse. [This dialectic is often mis-attributed to the philosopher, Hegel, and seems to trace back at least to Kant.]

One of our storytellers, who works in a corporate setting, sent me the following query:

"What appeals to me about this one is that it seems to exemplify one of the critical skills of collaboration - that of reconciling (synthesizing) two seemingly contradictory positions (thesis and antithesis, of course).

I've got a business workshop concerning Adaptive Skills coming up in a few weeks, and I've been asked to talk about "The Power of Storytelling".  I was thinking of launching into a T-A-S story as an illustration of the kind of behavior we're looking to encourage.

So – I was wondering if you can direct me to any stories (or collections!) that have this sort of organization?"

In answer to this request, I suggest that you consider any story as being maleable enough to serve a storyteller in any way he/she wishes.
To paraphrase Humpety Dumpety:
"When I tell a story it means exactly what I want it to mean, neither more nor less."

So, take a fable and turn it into an exercise for Thesis-Anthesis-Synthesis. Here is an example:

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cinderella's Coach

David has a brilliant mind and memory. His recall of people and their stories is flawless and he nails it for observation. A fantastic listener. ––– Elaine Dull Muray (Thanks Elaine!) 

Q: When is a pumpkin a coach?
A: When it carries someone to The Ball.

Where are you going? Do you want to craft your story? Improve your art? A coach can carry you closer to your destination.

When a small group of storytellers gather to work on their craft with the aid of a coach, there is no set curriculum. The combination of artists forms a unique opportunity for discovery.

Serving as a coach for fellow storytellers is an opportunity to practice listening, discernment and discovery.

When coaching, I bring the following premises concerning storytelling:

1. Storytelling is a conversational art form.
This is where we begin, in conversation. There must be a dynamic relationship between the story-teller and the story-listener. This is where we look for the involvement strategies to engage and manage a listener’s attention.

2. The art begins with listening.
It is easy to think that the role of the listener is to pay attention and the role of the teller is to receive it. But keep in mind that a currency is being exchanged. If the listener  “pays” attention, what are they paying for? Often, they are paying attention in order that attention will be paid to them: the story is for them, it concerns them, it is relevant to them. This is where we look for the teller to make choices based on an awareness of the needs of the listener.

3. The storyteller is a living body-of-text.
The "living literature" of the modern storyteller includes narrative, anecdote, poetry and song. Are you drawing fully on what you know? Understanding how your story fits in with your body-of-text strengthens your personal authenticity.

4. Storytellers must be concerned with the context of the telling.
Where are you? Why are you here? What just happened? Who are these people? What is this place? The storyteller is concerned with telling the right story at the right time for the right reason. We must learn to associate our body-of-text with our awareness of place, time, society, and circumstance.

5. All stories change value when put in relationship with other stories.
What do we discover about your story when it is shared between one story and the next? This is where we have our greatest opportunity: discoveries revealed to us in a group process. No matter how random the assortment of stories may appear, we will find lines of relationship within and among them that will reveal new considerations of the individual story and the story program.

6. To tell means to discern.
We often think that the story is the most important concern. But “story” is the object, “telling” is the action. Telling is, in part, tallying: the recounting of events. But the more important function of telling is discerning. Discernment makes the art of telling distinct from other story art forms. The storyteller practices this in choosing stories and in finding latent values in those stories to serve the present discourse.

Finally, each person in a group coaching session has something valuable to offer. Coaching is neither auditing nor judging. But there is evaluation.

Evaluation is the act of finding value. A coach listens for the particular opportunities your work presents and from that, creates a valuable experience for the entire group.
For me, coaching is a way-finding art, an improvised curriculum for getting us to The Ball.