Once upon a time…Happy World Storytelling Day. Happy first day of Spring for those north of the equator and happy first day of Autumn for those south of the equator.
The theme of this year’s World Storytelling Day: A Global Celebration of Storytelling is wishes. The fun logo (shown here) for this year’s events is by the Swedish professional storyteller Mats Rehnman. What a fun job title to have!
Richard Kearney, in his gem of a book On Stories (Routledge, 2002), begins with, “Telling stories is as basic to human beings as eating. More so, in fact, for while food makes us live, stories are what make our lives worth living.” He then ends the book with, “There will always be someone there to say, ‘tell me a story’, and someone there to respond. If it were not so, we would no longer be human.” Kearney (Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and University College Dublin) also points out that all of us are in search of a narrative, a story–not only to try and make sense of this messy thing called human existence/life, but also because, “Our very finitude constitutes us as beings who, to put it baldly, are born at the beginning and die at the end.”
But on to this year’s World Storytelling Day theme of wishes. Wishes, as in the fairytale line “I’ll grant you three wishes”? Or wishes as in the Five Wishes healthcare end-of-life (end of the story) advance directives advocated by the U.S.-based group Aging With Dignity? The line ‘if wishes were horses’ kept coming to me this morning as I fished for wishes–for the meaning of wishes–for stories about wishes–in my head (pre-coffee).
The saying or maxim “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” seems to be of Scottish derivation, first recorded in the 17th Century. It was–and is–an admonishment for hard work instead of ‘useless’ daydreaming/wishful thinking. It was used as a heading in copybooks for British schoolchildren to practice their penmanship with by ‘writing this out 100 times’ or whatever their schoolteachers had them do.
Here is a stanza from Rudyard Kipling’s poem (published in 1919 yet so very relevant today) The Gods of the Copybook Headings:
“With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.”
Tell a story (not a lie) today to a child or someone ill or dying or to a random person in your life who needs to hear a good story. Or to yourself. About wishes. About dreams (of the moon as cheese). About what it means to be human.