Monday, April 7, 2014

The Storytelling Sphere of History

It's incredible to me the way that history is formed.

The other day, I was listening to an NPR story entitled, "Japanese Baseball Began On My Family's Farm In Maine." It's about a family from that far-flung place (Maine, not Japan) and their visit to Japan at the formal invitation of some officious Japanese gentleman to come to that distant land (Japan, not Maine) to help mark an event commemorating their ancestor's—a man named Horace Wilson—contribution to baseball's introduction there (again, Japan). Sound confusing? It isn't. Take a look and have a listen. In fact, it's a rather tame if not well-told story that focuses on the myriad positive, unsung things that happen in our world daily. No global or domestic violence. No crashing jetliners. No sensationalized politics. (Thank God.)

But that's beside the point.

The point comes when you listen to what's said starting at the 4'57" mark of the story's audio. Here, one of the Mainers involved, the father of the girl telling the story, speaks to a stadium audience of Japanese baseball fans in response to a question about the significance of what Horace Wilson stood for. A recording of the father from that day says, "Horace Wilson believed that education should include exercise of the body as well as exercise of the mind." He then goes on to admit at the time of the article, "Of course, no one knows what Horace Wilson believed at all so we made it up on the spot."


To say nothing of the fact that you have a rural American in big city Japan speaking English to a Japanese speaking audience about something no one today was alive for, but at least everyone still understands the importance of, some of the most important details for the reason of the story are just that—a story! There's no verifiable truth that that's what Horace Wilson believed, but that doesn't make it any less valid for those who experience what the story means to them today. It's made even more incredible when you consider how much the Japanese officials who came to Maine in-person to meet the family credited the cultural exchange that Wilson began so long ago in helping to shape events through Japan's industrialization, World War II, and beyond.

And so the story goes. History is constantly created through the eyes of those who perceive it, and when we don't perceive it, we conjure it out of little more than a gut feeling and the obligation to say something and the privilege to be heard! For how many notes in the timeline of our little Earth would that be true? How often do we supply an answer where there was none before, even if we're not an expert on the topic? Or report on something for the fifteenth time and change it a little, or spice it up, even if we don't know we're doing it? Many, many times I'd wager. And there's nothing to be ashamed of with that. The stories that mean the most to us have a way of becoming verifiably true the more we share them and the more they are accepted by those around us. No story that wasn't shared ever made it into the history books.

It's all about storytelling. There isn't a storytelling side to history; history is surrounded by it. And as a storyteller, that makes me smile. :D