I’ve never considered myself anything more than a simple storyteller … and all my life I’ve always believed that storytellers define the culture. After all, they really create the lens through which we perceive the world around us. They’ve been doing it since the beginning of time — first with prehistoric drawings scratched into the walls of caves, then on scrimshaws carved in ivory, and even on architectural friezes on Roman and Greek buildings. It then evolved into the great oral tradition, in which stories of history were handed down from one generation to the next in Africa and the Middle East and by storytellers around campfires in the American West. Today those campfires travel with the speed of light, dancing digital images on movie screens, iPads, smart phones and the newest brands of computers we wear on our wrists.
When you stop and think about it, we are all storytellers, no matter the medium. Some of our stories are told with numbers, others with written words, songs, images or even by modeling a life of great character, integrity or truth. We are all storytellers and every day we are defining worldviews through the lives we lead that become the stories that shape the perception of our world … Those worldviews tell us how we are to view ourselves, as well as others.
Make no mistake, all of the arts have always been shaped by those worldviews. Until the Age of Enlightenment, art was seen as a way of expressing profound truths. Not necessarily literal truth; symbols and metaphors reflecting something true about reality, like portraying angels with wings or saints with halos. Beauty itself was seen as a kind of truth.
Then during the period of Enlightenment, a new theory of truth was born. It said that the only real knowledge derives from what can be seen, touched and measured scientifically. Since angels and halos cannot be seen or measured, out they went. We were told that beauty itself is an ideal that cannot be measured scientifically, so out it went, too — relegated to subjective fantasy.
If art was no longer about truth, then what was it about? Many artists began to define art as the creation of an abstract, idealized world — and from that ideal world they hurled down thunderbolts upon the real world for all its shortcomings. Thus was born the idea that art is about criticism and revolt — a means of shocking conventional society. Filtered down to the popular level, this view of art has inspired movies, rock music and social media tirades that today launch a cacophonous and relentless attack on our traditional values.
The other endemic thing that has happened to our society is the conscious removal of God from the public square, schools, judicial system, political discourse and mainstream media. The result is that an ever-increasing segment of our society has no accountability or the ability to give thanks. When there is no accountability or a Supreme Being to thank for our blessings, the result is chaos. And that is the chaos we find ourselves living in today.
Just think what could happen if each of us tried to live a life of meaning, significance and truth — if that was the story that each of us had to tell.
You know not so very many years ago, in medieval times, each king had many castles in his vast kingdom and as he traveled around, his subjects could always tell where the king was because as soon as the king arrived at one of his castles, they would raise the king’s flag, signaling that the king was in residence.
Think for a minute if each person in our own neighborhoods, towns, states or our entire country started conducting themselves so that, as people looked at us, through the stories our lives are telling, it would be obvious to them that the King of all Kings was in residence in our lives. We, as the storytellers, producers, directors, writers and filmmakers of this new age, could change the world. You up for the challenge?
• S. Bryan Hickox, D.H.L., is an executive producer and producer of over 80 television movies and feature films. His television films have been nominated for 16 — and won seven — national Emmy Awards; a George Foster Peabody Award; and more than 200 national and international film festival awards and competitions.
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