Time for Story Telling

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It’s been said that better questions lead us naturally to better answers, and that it’s in not knowing that we open the doorway to knowing. I’m Scott Lennox and you’re listening to The Beautiful Question, a consideration of things that truly matter in a complex world.

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For as long as human beings have gathered, storytellers have woven magical spells with words and gestures and images.

This week, as I’ve done in a few previous episodes, I’ll take a break from weightier matters and share some of my own stories with you. Stay with me. You may like what you hear.

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In the sheltering places of an ancient and forgotten time, I can envision storytellers casting their enchantments over anyone who would listen to them. As firelight threw waving shadows onto the cliff walls or the trees behind them, what lay beyond them in the darkness became the stuff of mystery and legend. So it is that cultures were formed and held together.

Though we no longer huddle in caves or canyons or in tall forests, we’re no less transfixed when today’s storytellers weave their magic. Something in us hungers to be swept up and carried away and lifted out of our everyday experience. A well-crafted story has the power to do just that.

My father was the first master storyteller I knew. When I was a boy, he told us about his childhood in Nova Scotia, about the way he shoveled coal on a merchant marine ship to earn his way to America, and about the harrowing missions he flew as a B-17 pilot in World War Two. I hung on his every word and hoped that he would never stop talking.

It would be years before I realized that I was part of a lineage and would one day become an accomplished storyteller in my own right.

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Decades ago, as a way of tapping into what I’ll call “the well of creativity,” I developed the habit of sitting down with my journal and allowing my mind to take me where it wished to go. The habit continues and whenever the muse whispers to me, I let what comes to me to flow onto the page. Some of those “first lines” have become longer works of fiction, including two novels, one of which is completed and another that is still in the works.

While the nine stories I’m about to share with you are pure fiction, they may hold shreds of truth that speak for themselves. I’ve shared one or two of them in previous episodes. Most of them are brief. A couple are no longer than a line or two, leaving your imagination free to fill in what I’ve begun. In fact, it’s that firing of the imagination that I’m hoping for. That, and a perhaps a dose of entertainment.

So, step with me into other times and other places. Who knows what we’ll discover.

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photo: Scott Lennox


One: Delicate Magic

It has long been told that in the time before legends—the time before charms were used or the first pale spells were cast—a tiny blue and white flower grew high in the mountains, sheltered between great crags of stone from wind and snow and heavy rains. It is said that this flower was of such beauty and delicacy that to smell it on the breeze or to look at it with a sidelong glance would render even the strongest men completely helpless. With their eyes flooded with tears, their hearts would be moved to tenderness and they would sing the sweetest of songs.

It has been whispered that one who dared to pluck such a flower would be transformed at once into a fairy or a nymph, or perhaps a dragonfly or a bee. And it has been rumored that even now—on certain nights—at a certain phase of the moon—in only one spell-guarded place—such flowers still bloom.

An old one assured me when I was quite small that if you could know the name of that flower and speak it plainly as you touched it, and remain who you are, you had surely become a wizard.

But I’m not asking you to believe such a thing.

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Two: The Noise Downstairs

In the middle of the night, John Franklin was awakened by a persistent tapping downstairs. He cocked his head to listen.

Tap tap… tap tap tap

He tiptoed to his closet, took out a baseball bat, and moved quietly down the stairs as the sound continued.

Tap tap… tap tap tap tap

When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he could tell that the tapping was coming from one of the windows in the study. The one behind his desk.

There it was again.

Tap, tap… tap tap tap tap ta

Tightened his grip on it, he raised the bat over his head and threw back the curtain.

On the window ledge, stood a crow that gleamed silver blue in the moonlight. In its beak, it held a small pebble with which it struck the glass over and over in the same place.

Tap tap … tap tap tap tap tap

Tap tap … tap tap tap tap

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Three: A Gesture of Respect

On the day his Bar Mitzvah, Solly’s grandfather stopped calling him that name, a name he had always loved hearing the old man speak. From that day forward, the elder Levine addressed his grandson only as Solomon. Each time the word passed from his lips—each time—he would close his eyes just slightly and just slightly dip his head in the ancient gesture of respect.

Solomon David Levine had become a man.

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Four: Gadja

Gadja had lived alone a very long time.

There were reasons she was so fierce, but no one would speak of them. At least not out loud. They knew better. There were stories, of course, but when they were told, it was always in low tones and with eyes darting both ways to make sure that no one could hear. The speaker would most often cross herself out of fear and a prayer for protection.

Gadja had lived alone in her cabin in the woods for such a long time that some people were more than certain she was a witch.

Which, of course, she was not.

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Five: Levitation and Other Surprises

Remington kept mostly to himself. He knew he was different. “After all,” he would ask himself, “what other eleven-year old has a name like Remington?” What other kid did he know who did all of their math homework in their head or studied calculus for the fun of it? And he was more than certain that no one else at Forsten Elementary could actually hear what other people were thinking. That part scared him sometimes. But he had learned to keep what he heard to himself and had learned not to react.

And then there was the problem of making things move with his mind by simply thinking to do it. It was happening more frequently and getting easier. The trick, he told himself, was not allowing other people to see him do it.

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Six: I’m Not Sheldon

“Sheldon,” the boss said, taking his spit-soaked cigar out of his mouth and pointing with it over his shoulder, “the boys over in finance think you’re doing a pretty good job down here…”
“Marvin,” I said.
“What?” the boss asked, loudly.
“Marvin. My name is Marvin—Marvin Lipshitz.”
“Yeah, sure kid. So anyway, Sheldon… like I was sayin’…

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Seven: Unopened

After the storm, the air was crisp, and clean. Any other time, Harold Dayton would have gone out and spent half the morning sitting in the swing on the side porch with his eyes closed, drinking in the sun and listening to the birds.

Today, he couldn’t make himself get out of bed.

As it had for three days, the letter from the Pentagon lay unopened on the table in the entryway. Even before it arrived, he knew the sorrow it held about his only son.

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Eight: On the Possibility of Lightning Striking Twice

It’s commonly stated that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but I can, and with great certainty, discharge that claim as being utterly false. I’m living proof of it.

In fairness, it was Easterling who saw her first.
“Look,” he said. “Isn’t that the girl of your dreams?”
As it happened, he was right.
But, perhaps I should digress.

My friend, Mr. Charles Atwood Easterling the third, and I were fresh out of law school and new to the city. At the end of his first semester, for reasons he would disclose to no one but yours truly, Easterling transferred from Harvard Law to Tulane, where the two of us became such close friends that he sometimes seemed like an added appendage.
Three days after graduation, we put what things we had into the trunk of his car and drove from New Orleans to Manhattan, where we rented a tiny apartment and were soon hired by Hatcher, Starnes, and Penn, a five-star firm that deals mainly with corporate law.

It was during our lunch break a couple of weeks ago that we took a stroll through Central Park. The air was crisp, the quality of the light altogether crystalline, and we were quite overtaken by the riotous colors of fall. As the path we walked took a turn, there she was with several books under her arm and standing by a bench with some friends. Pardon my use of a cliché, but the sound of her laughter was like music.

I slowed my pace as we passed by and she glanced at me, then quickly cut her eyes away. Suddenly short of breath, I understood, for the first time in my life, the meaning of the word “smitten.” Need I tell you that since that moment, I have found myself thoroughly distracted by a woman whose eyes I saw but once, and for no more than three seconds, mind you. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been reduced to the sensibilities of a schoolboy. I’ve been losing my train of thought, dropping papers, bumping into people in the hallway, and forgetting what room I was standing in and why I was there.

And then there’s the matter of the lightning.

Early this afternoon, while delivering a brief to a client whose office is across the park from ours, there she was again.
This time, she was sitting under a tree alone, reading Dostoyevsky and eating a sandwich. And this time, there was no fleeting glance or cutting her eyes away. She looked straight at me with a smile that held me breathless.
“Creighton!” she said, raising one eyebrow just slightly.
“You know my name?” I asked.
She laughed.
“Where’s your friend?” she asked.
“Um… He’s at the law library slaving over a case,” I told her.
“Good,” she said. “I was hoping I’d see you again. Join me?”
The pat of her hand on the grass beside her was all the invitation I needed.

As for the conversation that followed, I’ll keep that to myself.

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Nine: For the Rest of My Days

On a quiet Saturday morning, the summer I turned twelve, my father walked me out into the broad fields behind our barn. Half-way to the river, he stopped and stood perfectly still as grasshoppers whirred into flight around us. After being silent a long while, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked the question that would thereafter serve as the unwavering compass for my life.

“Take your time,” he said. “Look around and ask yourself, ‘Is this where I want to spend the rest of my days?’”
An unexplainable peace arose in me. I reckon my three-word answer took precisely twelve seconds to form itself—one for each year of my then short life.
“Yes,” I told him, “it is.”
I could be wrong, of course, but it appeared to me that as he turned and walked back toward the house, he was wiping away a tear.

That night, sitting across from him at the other end of the supper table, the gleam in his eye showed me everything I needed to know. It was a look that would stay with him for many years, a look that told me that out in the fields that warm and cloudless July morning, like my father and his father and his father before him, I had become… a farmer.

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This week’s two Beautiful Question are ones I have asked before.

One: What stories are you carrying that are waiting to be told?

Two: When, how, and to whom will you tell them?

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I hope that some of what I’ve shared has touched you in a good way. May it inspire you to share your own stories or search for others that move you and set fire to your imagination.

As I say each week,
My Light with your Light

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Thank you again for joining me in these podcasts as we keep doing everything we can to respond to life in increasingly effective ways. As always, I’m open to your comments and feedback.

You can be further inspired by visiting my friends at Kosmos Journal. That’s K O S M O S Journal. Their mission is to inform, inspire, and engage global transformation in harmony with all life. You can easily find them online at Kosmos Journal dot O R G.

And at thebeautifulquestion.com, you can read the illustrated transcript of each podcast as you listen. You’ll also find an archive of all previous podcasts, including episodes three and four, guided relaxation audios that can help you practice letting go on a daily basis.

If you find these podcasts useful, don’t hesitate to share them or tell others about them. That’s a great way of helping me get a voice of calm and collaboration and balance and encouragement out into the world.

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I’m Scott Lennox, and this has been The Beautiful Question.

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The Beautiful Question is a One Light production, written, produced and engineered by Scott Lennox at HeartRock Studios in Fort Worth, Texas, as a way of paying forward to life, being fully present, becoming better engaged with things that truly matter in a complex world, and committing to a healthier future for all of us.

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