This session was very dense with conversation and important observations. I found it thought provoking as both a storyteller and trainer. I am serving it to you divided in two; hoping reading fatigue will not get in the way of close consideration.
I’ve practiced all week, diction, phonetics, got more air through my lungs, told the lament in fragments, told it fully, told it to other people. Some of them listened but never said anything; one of them had a glazed look in his eyes and I lost him; my mother said, “That’s not how I’m used to hear it” another listened very closely and corrected a word when I got it wrong.
I see people don’t react easily, it’s difficult for them. I think it is because the “pictures” in their minds muddle-up hearing the lament told in such a different style. When you hear it told with pathos for years and years, you actually do not see anything, the voice entrances you, you do not need to see. Anyway, I feel I have a grip on the way I want to tell the lament.
“Say you already tell the lament very well. Would they take it in a different way?” I wanted to know. “Well, the only person who really listened, the guy who corrected me, lost two of his brothers in wars. Actually, one of them was called Jonathan,” said G, “which means he was prepared to listen from a different ‘place’ than others.” I told G that place is called – context. “So I think I need to prepare people,” he added. “I’m going to tell them they are going to hear David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan in a way they haven’t heard until today”. “What do you think about that?” I asked. “Hubris,” smiled G and then added, “I think I can shortly sum-up the events leading to the lament, tell the lament, and conclude with a personal note about the nature of the relationship between brothers in arms”.
It was my turn to smile. In an earlier post, I mentioned David’s lament is not a story; it is a powerful text within a story. It has to be framed if one wants to tell it with full loyalty to the speaker’s feelings and thoughts. Otherwise, pathos is inevitable; it as-if creates context.
Finding the missing pictures
G told me the lament. The work he did throughout the week was evident. His voice opened up, he was more confident and less stressful physically. “How was it?” I asked him after he concluded. “Seems alright plus. I can see it most of the time, I think I’m good”. “What about ‘Mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain…’ etc. did you see that?” I asked. “Hmm… not really, not fully anyway,” G replied. “And what about…” I cited another fragment, “nnnowww…” G was getting a little uncomfortable. I cited two more fragments and he answered the same – he did not see anything specific while telling those fragments, although he did see full pictures while telling the rest. “How on earth did you ‘hunt’ those exact places?” he wanted to know. “I can hear it in your voice, it becomes artificial. I can see it in your eyes – you don’t know where to look. You are looking somewhere but your vision is not focused on something specific”.
“But how can I see something specific in ‘Mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain…’?! I see mountains and…”
“What is David doing here?”
“He’s cursing the mountains of Gilboa”
“Can you see them in your mind’s eye? If you can, tell me what they look like”
“They are impressive, green, they stand over the Jezreel valley, and it’s the most fertile place in the land…”
“and this fertility, where does it come from?”
“look at the curse. David could wish the mountains to be hit by lightning, burn to dust, he could wish them disruption or crumbling by rats. Yet, he wished ‘may you have neither dew nor rain’, why? What did he see? What is the most powerful view if you look at them from afar or in your mind’s eye?”
“The sky stretching over the mountains, dotted with robust clouds” concluded G. “I get it. The curse wishes to slash the connection between mountains and clouds, cut the source of water. I can see the picture”.
We got through two other fragments with the same technique – figuring out what could be seen. The fourth fragment though, needed special attention and that is why I am bringing it here:
“For there the shield of the mighty was despised, the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.”
“–no longer rubbed with oil” “what do you see there?” I asked.
“I see a round leather shield,” replied G.
“Well, it’s more of a metaphor”
“You can’t see a metaphor; it’s created when you try to explain something you see, something that moves you beyond a simple description for some reason. What do you think David could see?”
“Maybe Saul falling on his sword?”
“Saul died away from David, he didn’t see him die. He didn’t see Jonathan die either”
“I don’t know”
“What is this metaphor telling us?”
“Its part of saying Saul, the king, has died”
“So what’s with the shield?”
“It won’t be used anymore; therefore it will not be prepared for battle, rubbed with oil”
“What will happen to it?”
“It will stay in the weaponry and dry out. I see a shield made for a king, stashed away in a corner of an ancient weaponry, cracked dry…”
Now G had a clear, focused vision for every bit of the lament. Did David see what G could see? Maybe. Maybe he saw different visions, but they were clear, focused and not very far from what G can see three thousand years later. Why? Because of all the work you have read about until now. I cannot say it is only because of the research. If that was true, we should have heard the lament told properly before. It took understanding the context, researching the narrative, full analysis, taking decisions, finding the core emotion, looking at movement and voice, throwing decisions away and having new ones more than once, understanding the power of a properly spoken word, a lot of practice, confronting some audience, focusing more and more until everything in the connection between word, gesture and voice become lucid, flowing from the core intention behind a text.
But… we are not done yet. Next Storytelling magic