The Story of Thanksgiving…and of Other Stuff
When confronted with the scholarship that Paul Revere probably did not make as long or as effective a ride as believed through New England to warn colonists of the approaching British forces, President Warren G. Harding supposedly said, “I love Paul Revere, whether he rode or not.” So ingrained is the story of Paul Revere’s ride into the consciousness of this nation and many of its citizens that for some, to doubt it is to doubt who we are as a country. And though President Harding was open minded enough to consider the possibility Paul Revere didn’t actually make that ride, he nonetheless loved him.
What Harding actually loved, though, was the story of Paul Revere’s ride.
As we enter the holiday season for many on Thursday with Thanksgiving here in the United States, story comes to the forefront. Most of us know that the first Thanksgiving did not unfold in reality as it did in the story, with pilgrims in goofy hats and giant buckles on their shoes sitting down with head dress-adorned native Americans to enjoy turkey dinners in brotherhood, amen. Yet Thanksgiving for those of us who celebrate it is not the same without at least an homage to that scene, a scene we adapt to our own table and circumstances however we see fit.
Research by reputable scholars in various fields has shown for years that Jesus of Nazereth was almost certainly not born in December. (The consensus, I believe, is April.) But mangers, wise men of the Orient, and a starry night in the Middle East converge with the notion of snow in the collective consciousness of most who celebrate Christmas. Even those who do not consider the Nazerene divine. Why? Again, the story.
Easter, the Fourth of July, Columbus Day. On and on. These days each present a story to us that has endured in some cases for ages, despite being in direct conflict with some of the proven historical facts connected to them. The stories in most cases remain undiluted. And while it’s dangerous to blindly follow lies, the facts is that we as people love, want, and possibly need our stories. Stories are not the same as lies, so long as we understand what we’re dealing with and remain willing to view things with our minds as well as our hearts.
As a writer and actor, I am a storyteller. For me the importance of story is unquestioned. (You’ll find that refrain throughout this blog and website.) I do write stories. Yet in most cases, the holiday stories I mentioned have no specific writer. Writers tell stories, yes, as do actors, musicians, poets, and many other types of artists. Writing is a medium, and a wonderful one. Good writing tells a story, even when it is non-fiction. But even those who cannot write can tell a story. They can be a story. They can love Paul Revere whether he rode or not.
All this by way of saying that if you have a story to tell, don’t leave it untold. Fiction, non-fiction, writing, music, oil painting. Whatever your medium, your story will find a way, if you accept that the telling of (and listening to) stories is no small thing in the corporate, loud, polluted and chaotic world we live in.