Last night I went to see The Moth Grand Slam at BB King’s Blues Club in midtown Manhattan. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Moth is a storytelling organization. They have a podcast and host events at which people tell true stories from their lives. The stories vary widely from funny to tragic to cute to poignant. I recommend you check it out at themoth.org. The Grand Slam was a competition between the last ten storytelling winners.
Last night’s stories were often very moving. I’m often shocked at how willing people are to stand up in front of an audience of strangers and share deeply personal narratives. But it’s true that telling a story is as important as hearing one. Some of the storytellers were trying to pass on lessons that had taken them a long time to learn and process. This, I think, is the most significant function of storytelling. I appreciate that these were not stories that were told off the cuff. They were carefully constructed, which made them all the more powerful. The art of telling a true story is complicated. Decisions like which details to include and omit drastically alter the meaning that someone walks away with. I’m sure that while the events people described were taking place their meaning was not clear. So these narrators were doing us a favor by making parts of their lives into a coherent whole for the rest of us to understand.
There isn’t always a lot of room in our daily lives to hear a complete story. These narratives were only about 5 minutes long but they enabled me feel like I knew a complete stranger. I was glad to be part of a forum that blurred the line between the personal and the public. And, because the show was in New York City, it felt more like it was a showcase of people fighting against anonymity.
So keep sharing stories everyone!