Of Mice and Men (1937) by John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
A storyteller with a good tale can provide the listener some relief from the anomie, boredom and hopelessness of the experience of our culture—of our experience in the narrative of our own life. And, of course, by good story we do not mean merely an entertaining but a wholesome and uplifting story with the promise of Self-realization.
In Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, the character George was the storyteller. The two itinerant farm workers Lenny (a large, strong, retarded man) and George (who looked after Lenny) moved from farm to farm working hard and saving their money. The story that George told Lenny was that they were going to buy their own land and raise rabbits. (Lenny was fond of soft and furry animals.) So Lenny is constantly asking George: “Please tell me the story again, George, please tell me the story.”
Any story that can sustain hope, however, must be realistic. Lenny tends to crush, squeeze or “pet” to death those animals that he loves. (He is afraid to tell George about the dead mouse in his pocket that he accidentally killed.) George comes to realize that the story he is telling Lenny will never happen.
Leaving Steinbeck’s story and keeping our focus on the importance of the storyteller we can deepen our understanding of how the overall human story is unfolding. The world’s great religions were started by charismatic storytellers. Both Jesus and Mohammed, for example, came along and offered a better story than the prevailing narrative of their respective cultures.
People respond to compelling stories because they promise to carry civilization forward. But so far humanity has not been able to conceive of a profound story—one that is in harmony with reality and at the same time captures the imagination of a significant (historically speaking) number of people. Individual mystics have told profound stories, but most people have failed to understand the full implications of those stories.
To avoid the sad ending that is the inevitable conclusion of the current human condition we need a dramatic, attention-getting, stupendous and exhilarating story. We need an inspirational story that will wake us up to the miracle of life on this planet. That story is Simple Reality.
We are hurting for a good storyteller.
References and notes are available for essays on this blog.
Find a much more in-depth discussion on this blog and in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.