Peace and Love Lifestyle

Creating Pockets of Mindfulness and Gladness through Yoga and Writing

Albert Murray on The Social Function of the Story-Teller

Books provide the wisdom, and sight, necessary to walk deeper into the world, and as our apprenticeship with reading grows our consciousness expands to meet the demands of any heroic effort. Because the mundane routines of our lives causes us to question that ability of things to change, we must our lives in persistently focusing, discovering, and actively looking for beauty; books aid our journey of looking at the moments in our lives often overlooked with new eyes. A skilled writer is a craftsman of fantastical tales, a healer of our forgetful soul, a herbalist for our malnourished bodies, and a psychotherapist for our mind. Throughout The Hero and the Blues Albert Murrays makes clear that writing can be just as impactful as any scientific solution saying:

“Storybook images are as indispensable to the basic human processes of world comprehension and self-definition( and hence personal motivation as well as purposeful group behavior) as are the formulas of physical science or the nomenclature of the social sciences. Such basic insights may be derived from the make-believe examples of literature are, moreover, as immediately applicable to the most urgent problems of everyday life as are scientific problems.”

Anton Pieck (1895-1987), ”Stories from the Arabian Nights” by Naomi Lewis, 1987

Speaking beautifully on the necessity of the artist to master his chosen medium, Albert Murray, raises the artist to the level of Virgil guiding Dante as far as he can go; to journey through hell and purgatory required a patience, faith, presence, love, but most importantly, often overlooked, a ancestor, a guide, a being sitting behind our shoulder directing our thoughts. Crafting stories that provide guidance for the soul; removed from corporate interest and uninterested in telling stories that are purely entertainment the artist moves in the status of teacher or shaman or myth maker healing our blind spots. Making clear the educational nature of our parables, fables, tales, legends, and sagas Albert Murray says:

“Indeed, at bottom perhaps the most radical innovations in rhetoric and in narrative technique are best appreciated when viewed as efforts to refine the writer’s unique medium of instruction. In other words, to make the telling more effective is to make the tale more to the point, more meaningful, and in consequence, if not coincidentally, more useful. Nor is the painter or the musician any less concerned than the writer with achieving a telling effect.”

At 18 years old, now 24, I am still barely able to comprehend, I was completely unable to understand why my peers were going to jail, some dying, others joining gangs, many becoming mothers and fathers, for I knew from stories and conversations with my mother that “We will see when we grow up that life is hard” , but I didn’t expect life to happen that fast. Many of my peers weren’t given a chance to make mistakes, or even understand the pain, fear, or ugliness behind their actions. Then came Baldwin, Ellison, and Morrison that confirmed the possibility of joy, and the necessity of embracing every aspect of existence. Reading allows you to experience lives already lived preparing you for directions that are beyond our sight; I read Notes of a Native Son until the pages began to give away, covered in food stains, and carrying it everywhere I went like an amethyst crystal; when Baldwin said, “This intimation made my heart heavy and, now that my father was irrecoverable, I wished that he had been beside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now” my relationship with my father was recoverable, but only three years later would I ride in a black limousine holding my sister as our father was to be buried. I understood this line in that moment. Dead or alive authors becomes guides that provide the necessary instruction for living a life of hope, optimism, and gladness. As we move through the valley of the shadow of death fiction becomes a key component to survive the journey. Albert Murray understood the necessity of the writer’s responsibility saying:

“Fiction of its very nature is most germane and useful not when it restricts itself to the tactical expediencies of social and political agitation and propaganda as such, but when it perfoms the fundamental and universal function of literature as a fine art, regardless of its raw material or subject matter.”

To embrace the awe and reverence and mystery and magic hidden in the world requires a prioritizing of the heart, and a release of the rugged individualism that has caused of dispirited morality. Placing our burdens onto the paper in order to provide the circumstances and tools necessary for easing our burdens; the writer aims at telling the “truth.” Truth cannot exist without human intelligence which means we, the writer or artist, are obligated to fill in the blanks of everything unsaid and part the veil that shrouds our existence. Writers are the entrance into our internal life; the shaman that provide the light to peer into the self, and encourage us to reconstruct the world and live internally. As Toni Morrison says, in her beautiful book What Moves at The Margins, “Art tells us how to behave in new situations.” Through an exploration of the interior life we reveal a kind of truth which leads us to the discovery of a kind of beauty; Albert understood the spiritual dynamic of crafting stories saying:

“The writer who creates stories or narrates incidents which embody the essential nature of human existence in his time not only describes the circumstances of human actuality and emotional texture of personal experience, but also suggests commitments and endeavors which he assumes will contribute most to man’s immediate welfare as well as to his ultimate fulfillment as a human being”

While watching our loved ones drown we are bombarded with the necessity to pay bills, repair our cars, make it to work, and try to find peace of mind amongst our many fears, anxieties, and insecurities. However, beauty is waiting to be discovered in the in the face of these devastating realities; and art provides the strength to conquer the grey attempting to seal our eyes. We need to experience the totality of the world, and live with a message that enlightens. In order to survive this world one must have a vision, and follow it faithfully. Speaking on the necessity of adequate images Albert says:

“What must be remembered is that people live in terms of images which represent the fundamental conceptions embodied in their rituals and myths. In the absence of adequate images they live in terms of such compelling images (and hence rituals and myths) as are abroad at the time. Where there is no adequate vision the people perish, one might say, precisely because where there are no “good” writers there are always “bad” writers, where there are no adequate images there are always inadequate images. Yet the quality of the serious art of the times whether adequate or not is likely to be reflected in the popular art of the times.”

Writers provide the public with the truth of life; a documentation of the song and dance ritual reminding us that death is immanent and love is a necessity. Every writer of class aims at instructing the public on the steps to redemption, and encourage perseverance; these are the qualities required for living a life that seems to always test the strength of our spirit. Through the instructive, protective, and timeless wisdom of literary craftsman our elders defeat death; Albert understand all great literature is the continuation of the song and dance ritual saying:

“It is also by means of such imitation that literature fulfills its function as a fundamental vehicle of information, instruction, wisdom, and moral guidance. The song and dance ritual whatever its extensions, whether as drama, lyric poem, ode, hymn, lay, epic, ballad or blues, is not only a reenactment-creation, but also a reenactment illustration, demonstration, and initiation. Even as the short story and the novel embody and thus describe and define the world as the writer perceives it, they also serve to initiate the reader into it, When the writer relates a story to the reader, he literally connects him with what they story is about. He makes the reader aware of information which establishes a relationship between the reader and the writer’s point of view, his scale of values, and his sense of human existence”

Reading is education; going beyond the A and B metric of schooling, but focused on the often overlook, but deeply important, internal reflection that is the basis of all heroic action. Without elders guiding the youth our children suffer from a malnourishment of wisdom, a feeble courage, and insist on their own destruction. They are unable to interpret the events happening around them merely blind to the world existing outside their egocentricity. Our joy is necessary, for loneliness claims the times; Albert makes clear that every reader becomes prepared for the world saying words similar to James Baldwin, “Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it:

“He is (the reader) an apprentice, and his workshop includes the whole range of human possibilities and endeavor. His task is to learn from the example of journeymen and master craftsman such skills as not only will enable him to avoid confusion and destruction but will also enhance his own existence as well as that of human beings everywhere.”

All through The Hero and the Blues Albert Murray provides wisdom necessary for the transformation of a victim consciousness to one of heroism and bravery. Albert spent his life crafting stories that would become a major interest not only as American literature but also as a part of contemporary writing in the world at large. This book lays out the guiding nature of great literature and provides wisdom necessary for making it through the world without becoming jaded.

Albert Murray Collected Essays and Memoirs