Sunday, May 3, 2020

A Story for Our Time

As mentioned in the last post, no-one is more astounded than I am that i'm teaching Orff Schulwerk online. And while I hold to the view that this is not the real deal and that the live, in-the-flesh workshop is irreplaceable and wholly necessary, still I am astounded by how much can get through electrons flying through the ether on pixilated screens. The human need for communion, for intellectual engagement and imaginative connection is so strong that like a plant growing in the crack of a concrete, it can come through in even the most limited and adverse circumstances. It reminded me of a story about stories that I had stored away in my storehouse of someday-I'll-need-this information and lo and behold, I found it in one of the books on my shelves. And then wrote my own version. As follows:

Whenever misfortune threatened the Jews, Rabbi Israel Ball Sehm Tov would retreat to the forest, light the fire, say the prayer and the misfortune would be avoided. In the passing of time this task fell to a second rabbi who knew both the place in the forest and the prayer but not how to light the fire. Nevertheless the misfortune was avoided. A third rabbi knew only the play; the prayer and the fire had been forgotten. But this too was enough and the misfortune was avoided. Finally the task fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn who knew neither the place nor the fire nor the prayer. All he could do was tell the story. 

And it was sufficient. *

In the ancient times, the people would gather around the campfire and all would drum and sing and dance and feast and tell the old stories of men, women, beasts and plants. Thus, they participated in the turn of the seasons and harvested the joys and sorrows of each day and exulted in the beauty of life and the wonder of it all in company with each other. After some time, the campfire was abandoned and people gathered inside their houses to dance, drum, sing and feast. Sometime later, people went into school classrooms, the feast was abandoned and only some people drummed, only some danced, only some sang. Still later, yet fewer played each part and they went into a studio and people listened on listening devices. Yet later, a machine made drumbeats and a singer sang and the music played in the background while people chatted in a café.  And so it diminished until one day, there was nothing left but a little song sung by a child to a gridded screen of tiny faces. 

And it was enough.

PS (For now)

* From the Introduction to Jane Yolen’s Favorite Folktales of the World

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