Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | June 16, 2008

As a Tale is, So is Life…

In this speech J.K.Rowling quotes two classical authors. Plutarch: ‘What we achieve inwardly, will change outer reality,’ and Seneca: ‘As a tale is, so is life – not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.’

The clip I pasted in ran the sound automatically,which is really annoying. So instead here is a link to the clip, just click to watch!

Responses

  1. I have just read ‘The Faithful Gardener’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (her ‘Woman Who Run With The Wolves’ is a book I have turned to again and again – I find her writing so moving and inspiring). ‘The Faithful Gardener’ tells the story of her uncle, an Hungarian refugee, trying to rebuild his life in America – post second world war – after the horrors of being in the slave labour camps on the Russian border and witnessing the deaths of many of his fellow countrymen. The book is Estes’ memory of him as a child, of her Hungarian foster family, and in particular the way in which a largely uneducated peasant people used story to teach about life, passing on tales with the understanding that they can act as psychological road signs. All of Estes’ work focuses on the potential that myth and story have to liberate, empowering both the listener and the teller. She also heads the C.P Estes Guadalupe Foundation, a human rights organisation that, amongst other things, broadcasts ‘strengthening stories via shortwave radio to trouble spots throughout the world’. I thought this was a fascinating idea because it suggest a firm belief in the potential of Plutarch’s statement.

    I think that J.K Rowling’s touches on something so important when she speaks of the link between imagination and empathy. Such a link deepens our humanity, and through the telling and hearing of the stories of life – both joyful and tragic – we add to that storehouse of knowledge for those that come after us. Our connections to each other and the world are deep and mysterious, despite the conflict and separation that the surface seems to show at times. In story and myth our spiritual roots are uncovered – our experiences are shared, we find that at a fundamental level we walk the same path, feel the same pain and happiness, encounter the same loss and renewal. Also, as Rowling mentions, the ability to imagine another way to be – something so vital for us now – is crucial.

    I have been thinking a great deal about renewal and the resilience of the human spirit; about those ‘rock bottom’ moments of my own life and those around me; about the pain of transition and the power of transformation. I just want to share a little of ‘The Faithful Gardener’ because it really touched me:

    ‘I know that those who are in some ways and for some time shorn of belief in life itself – that they are ultimately the ones who will come to know best that Eden lies underneath the empty field, that new seed goes first to the empty and open places – even when the open place is a grieving heart, a tortured mind, or a devasted spirit.

    ‘What is this faithful process of spirit and seed that touches empty ground and makes it rich again? Its greater workings I cannot claim to understand. But I know this: Whatever we set our days to might be the least of what we do, if we do not understand that something is waiting for us to make ground for it, something that lingers near us, something that loves, something that waits for the right ground to be made so it can make its full presence known.

    ‘I am certain that as we stand in the care of this faithful force, that what has seemed dead is dead no longer, what has seemed lost, is no longer lost, that which some have claimed impossible, is made clearly possible, and what ground is fallow is only resting – resting and waiting for the blessed seed to arrive on the wind with all Godspeed…And it will.’

  2. This woman, J.K. Rowling, is a gentle, gentle genius who knows of the state we are in, without denial, without pretensions and with a load of love.

  3. What an intelligent and moving speech! I think Ms Rowling is right – we are born with a limitless imagination – if we try to stifle it or block things out – it will create it’s own monsters – as Maria says the link between imagination and empathy is so important – it teaches us respect for individual experience.

    What lucky graduates to have such a powerful speech for their ceremony – I hope it stays with them for a very long time.


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