So we were down in Leitrim for the weekend and didn’t we discover as we arrived that this was the most interesting of weekend’s to be in Mohill. The Storytelling festival and the horse fair were both on. Maire and I went to a storytelling concert in Lough Rynn castle and it was an enthralling experience. What struck me above all was the manner in which we become mesmermised by good stories and how the craft of storytelling is still very important in the modern world.
Coincidentally the previous day we had a Friday lunchtime seminar on learning and teaching in the College and the importance of stories and good case studies was emphasised. The role of narrative as a vehicle for learning has always been important -it is perhaps the oldest way of education.
Often I come across instrumental approaches to teaching -the idea is to break up the content and to distil the important points and ‘give’ notes to students for later reproduction. We then seem baffled when there is little retention or deep level learning. The stark presentation of abstract concepts is of little value to students grappling with these concepts for the first time.
Old wisdom was handed down through generations embedded within the stories of the time. These stories act like egg yoke providing nourishment to the knowledge and ideas buried within the narrative.
Of particular interest was the genesis story as told by Clare Muireann Murphy which she attributes to a fellow story teller from Spain. In that story God creates man and women and makes them blind and set apart across a river in huts surrounded by noisey leaves so that He could hear if they got up to anything. Inevitably lust plays its part and they are cast out and as in other versions we have woman as crafty instigator and man as mindless instinct.
I believe that genesis stories are archetypes describing the nature of human learning and development. A kind of ‘curiosity killed the cat’. Except that the place where Adam and Eve start out Eden -a garden or as in Clare’s story a hut by a river is usually portrayed as nice but empty. Something is missing? And surely what’s absent is inquiry, questioning and curiosity -in the Spanish story the two participants find their eyelids covered over by skin. When they release their eyes (which were always underneath) they get up to devilment. But its pleasurable and compelling and eventually they are cast out of the place of tranquility.
This is the human prediciment -we strive to change and progress and with these strivings we bring risk upon ourselves. But this is what we do -this is what we’ve always done and for all the Edens I prefer to take my chances with curiosity and spend my time out here outside the garden.