At just five-years-old, I encountered the dark side of storytelling. It was during the Yom Kippur War (1973), when Israel waged war with several neighboring Arab countries. I remember looking out my window seeing war planes cross the sky when my mother shouted for me to run to the shelter. I took it rather personally that people I didn't know were trying to kill me. While my family huddled in the bomb shelter, I asked my mother (my father was fighting in the Golan Heights) the reason for the conflict. She tried her best to convey 3000 years of history—how various religions and nations had all come to believe that this particular slice of turf had been promised to each one of them. I remember feeling terribly confused and asking, “If everyone loves this land so much, why does it create so much hate?”
I never got an answer. My mother had other things to worry about. I think that on that day the seed of my career was sown, the inciting incident, that later sprouted into what I do today - finding the commonalities among all cultures and religions and battling those who overly magnify the differences. Maybe that is why I travel the world teaching and sharing stories from different mythologies to people from diverse religions. Jews Muslims and Christians all claim they are the true inheritor's of the Patriarch Abraham's (meaning of name - Father of Nations) legacy. However, a close reading of the book Genesis shows that Abraham had nothing but a spiritual bequest to leave after him. The only land he ever purchased in the so called promised Land was a cave he bought to bury his wife. In fact, he paid 400 Shekel for it (about 100$ in today's exchange rate). How symbolic, that the only real thing Abraham left for his sons to fight over is a place of death, deep in the bosom of the Underworld. Death indeed. In 1929, 67 Jews and 9 Arabs were killed in a massacre carried out by Arabs and in 1994 an American-Jew shot 29 Palestinians.
That childhood war-story demonstrated that while some myths can kill, others can heal. Storytelling is a powerful tool encoded in our DNA, a gift bequeathed to humanity by whatever or whoever created us. Darwinism describes that we evolved from Homo-Habilis, the tool-making hominid. But I suspect that the first tools we created were not sharp stones and flints, but rather words weaved into sentences, a tapestry of stories—the legends told around the fire by the early tribal elders. These stories helped us to survive, build societies, and pass down vital information from one generation to the next.
The New Testament asserts that “God is the Word” and Kabbalah proclaims that God created the universe with a story! Since Genesis tells us that we are created in the image of God, we too can create a richer life by constructing deeper and more meaningful stories. Life has taught me that practicing this transcendent gift of storytelling on a daily basis, can improve the quality of our lives. When people ask, how are you? Don’t just mutter "fine." Instead, tell them a good story, find and relate a synchronicity, a joke, or a moving tale and thus you practice being more like God, the ultimate storyteller.
...In thirty-two most hidden and wonderful paths of wisdom did JAH the Lord of Hosts engrave his name...He created this universe by the three books: Number, Stories, and Communication.
1:1 Sefer Yetzirah – The Book of Creation (Attributed to Abraham)
This year, I decided to dedicate my spring weekend retreat at Esalen to practicing the art of storytelling using the bible. I always thought of the bible as a storytelling machine that not only spawned the New Testament (2.2 billion believers) and the Koran (1.6 billion readers) but also via Hollywood, influenced billions of others around the globe including countless atheists, pagans, Buddhists, animists, Hindus etc.
The Holy-Writ’s style and methodology gave birth to the rules and structure of movie scripting. For example, what in Hollywood is called the “character’s-arc” or the protagonist’s transformation is illustrated by the concept of redemption in the bible. Jacob starts his life as a liar and thief, he steals a blessing from his twin brother, but ends his life as a wise mystic and sage. In the bible you will find many lessons that are funny, quirky, profound and intense, even if you don’t believe (like I do) that God wrote it. The ancient scripture, most likely compiled and written 2500 years ago, can still help us understand our lives today. In this weekend workshop I plan to reclaim the bible from all the fanatics, politicians and crazy priests and rabbis who use the bible to disenfranchise segments of society under the pretense that if it is written in the bible, it means it’s God’s will. I truly hope you can join me at the magical breathtaking Esalen between March 29-31, right on Easter weekend. If you have never been to Esalen, the place where the mighty old and wise Redwoods touch the ocean and sacred hot springs bubble out from the earth, you must at least come for a visit. It is a place the earth herself composes psalms. And we will be very blessed that weekend with a Full Moon in Libra, the sign of peace...
But until then, do remember to story-tell yourself into happiness. Since we all one day (this lifetime or another) will attain enlightenment and return to light, all our stories are bound to have...a Happy End :)