The stories we tell 

Last night, thanks to the unexpected generosity of the Retreat, we got tickets to The Hatch’s annual storytelling extravaganza at the Latchis.

Fronted by Tom Bodett and led by a gang of local movers and shakers masquerading as soccer moms, the Hatch brings storytellers (in the vein of This American Life or The Moth) to town for a fundraiser. Each year they choose one charity, and last night was Youth Services. A fun event for a worthy cause.

As it happens, there was also a Paul Stone painting available via silent auction… that brings our collection to two.

The program was certainly entertaining, and it really was a good cause, and we were happy to be there. But of course there’s a niggle…

In these times we live in, it has become possible for a whole class of people to get astoundingly good at doing spoken word performance stuff (and also blogging !!!), from standup to serious. This show leans heavily toward the personal and confessional, the kind of reflective story you’d unexpectedly share with a college friend you haven’t seen in 20 years.

Except these stories are edited, polished, perfected, and practiced so they seem even more real than they already are. Which somehow makes them less real to me. Constructed rather than lived… recited rather than shared.

Somehow the standard for “truth” in these spoken memories seems uncomfortably fuzzy to me. In photos, when we airbrush our fashion models, or rearrange the bodies on the battlefield, most people object that there’s been an act of deceit. And when Ben Carson talks about West Point… But when these radio storytellers deliver their homilies about life and loss and love, we aren’t fact-checking. I think even if  we did find things to quibble about in these stories, we’d decide that the authenticity of the emotions they conjure outweighs the heavy use of craft to convey them.

Anyway, it’s all just a niggling question, of little real importance. The Hatch’s mission is clear and benevolent … use the power of narrative to raise money for groups that need it. Since I support the causes they support, and since it really was a great show, I’m quite willingly complicit.

And years from now, using all the techniques I’ve been able to glean from watching and listening to Bodett and crew, I’ll lean over to the tourist who just walked into the beach bar and tell him my story.

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