Short Stories

Since the inception of the printed word and eons before, the human experience and life lessons and truths have been shared, recited and transmitted through stories. Nothing captures the imagination and lingers longer in the human consciousness than memorable short stories—those well crafted myths and fables, biographies or documentaries—which reveal the deeper truths and mysteries of life and call listeners to act. Jesus and great religious leaders of other wisdom traditions knew the transformative power of short stories and often relied on them in their teachings.

Marshall Ganz, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on organizing and public narrative, says this about stories:

All stories have three parts: a plot, a character, and a moral. What makes a plot a plot? What gets you interested? Tension. An anomaly. The unexpected. The uncertain and the unknown. A plot begins when the unknown intervenes. We all lean forward because we are familiar with the experience of having to confront the unknown and to make choices. Those moments are the moments in which we are most fully human, because those are the moments in which we have the most choice.

In a story, a challenge presents itself to the character who then has a choice, and an outcome occurs. The outcome teaches a moral, but because the character is humanlike, we are able to identify empathetically, and therefore we are able to feel, not just understand, what is going on.

A story communicates fear, hope, and anxiety, and because we can feel it, we get the moral not just as a concept, but as a teaching of our hearts. That’s the power of story. That’s why most of our faith traditions interpret themselves as stories, because they are teaching our hearts how to live as choiceful human beings capable of embracing hope over fear, self-worth and self-love over self-doubt, and love over isolation and alienation.

Thus, in the long tradition of our religious teachers, sages and griots, and wise women and men who have come before us, CommonUnity will use the creative art of short stories, retell some ancient ones and make space to create new ones to teach life lessons and illuminate the perennial truths of the sacred, humanity and the mysteries of life.