Storytelling Matters

The Live Art and the Power of Words

Archive for the category “In General”

Reimagining Beauty – N is for Numinous

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – N is for Numinous

If this word is mysterious to you, then you are already halfway to understanding it – mysterious is one way to explain it.

Something that is numinous, according to Merriam-Webster.com, suggests the presence of divinity. Numinousness touches our emotions. According to the World Dictionary, another meaning of numinous is awe-inspiring.

Think magical. Think bewitching. Think holy. Think awesome. Think supernatural (but not the television series).

We have all met people who possess a quality that we can’t identify, that lures us in and lassos our hearts. We recognize sheer beauty when a mysterious, bewitching connection of two souls mutually strikes emotion and spirit. Meeting a life partner is an example of a numinous occurrence.

One of my son’s dance teachers has this quality. Tension melts away in his presence. He gentles people. Like a human horse whisperer, this man has an inexplicable something. One of his mentors says he is divine.

When we recognize the beautiful mystery of someone else, we are not looking at their complexion. When we are awestruck by another’s soul, we are not evaluating their swimsuit size. Yet, when we connect to the numinous nature of another, we marvel at his or her beauty.

So marvel at the inner, inexplicable beauty of those you know or compose words about. Whether you speak or write, tell about the beautiful, numinous nature of people.

Can you think of characters from life and literature who are beautiful for this quality?
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Copyright 2014 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – M is for Multifaceted

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – M is for Multifaceted

Cinnamon smells great. Baked apples are delightful. A handful of walnuts are a yummy treat. But when you put all of them together? Culinary loveliness.

A teen boy I know loves opera and gaming. By itself, the love of one or the other isn’t necessarily ugly or beautiful (though, seriously, a teen boy who wants to sing opera is a beautiful thing in its own way). However, the juxtaposition of those two passions in one teenager is singularly exciting and quite beautiful to think about.

Everybody is multifaceted. Everyone has a variety of characteristcs that come together, that harmonize or create counterpoint. Harmony and counterpoint are part of what makes beautiful music. A blend of just the right ingredients is what makes apple pie delicious. The varied facets of a human personality is what makes that person attractive and interesting.

When we focus on just one characterstic, like what a person looks like, we miss the best part.

Think of a kaleidoscope. When we look at one, we don’t focus on any one tiny fragment. We take in the combination of shapes and colors and patterns that dance in a prismatic array. The whole effect wows us. To focus on any one component won’t bring us to the beautiful effect that comes from looking at all the shaken parts at once.

Any story character worth its depth has more than one quality that comes together in an interesting way, that makes him or her leap off the page or tongue. I am currently working on a fractured variant of a classic story. I could describe the heroine as the typical, standard, old school fairy tale heroine – passive, pretty, and patient. But these are not the qualities that make my heroine beautiful. My woman is smart and artistic. And she is very discerning. Never once do I mention her looks. I don’t have to. Her multifaceted self is all she needs to be alluring.

Yes, it is trite, but sometimes trite is true. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And it is the sum of those parts that add up to beautiful people, no matter what they look like, no matter what their birth abilities might be. Apple pie. Harmony. Kaleidescope. Multifaceted.

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Copyright 2014 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – L is for Luminous

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – L is for Luminous

My neighbor has the sort of face that lights up rooms. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Her smile changes her face drastically. At rest, she looks like a middle-aged mom. But with a smile, she becomes a live, bright yellow, happy face emoticon. Jaunty jubilance shines from every pore. In short, she is luminous, and not a bad sight during the darkest, heavy-wet-snow moments of late winter.

She doesn’t have the exact look that advertising says is beautiful. But the luminosity she puts across is more beautiful than any sparkly-clad model on a runway (some of whom seem so worn down as to suck in light rather than to produce it, but I digress).

There is a child who I have written about in prior posts. She is the one who inspired this blog series. Her smile can stop wars. The joy and luminosity that she puts out is grippingly beautiful. My neighbor and that little girl are luminous, as are some other beautiful things.

Gems are luminous. Fireflly light is too. The sun breaking through the clouds and the sheen of gold evince luminosity. A masterly painting, when put in the proper light, well, lights up. All of those things reflect and shed light. All of those things are considered high beauty. So, when people shine like gems or great art, isn’t that great beauty too?

Luminosity doesn’t belong to one type of person. Anyone can be luminous. As all of my Reimagining Beauty posts suggest, beauty can be inclusive of people of all ages, abilities, and cultural backgrounds.The glow in someone’s eye, face, or skin hints at the shimmering spirit of a beautiful person within.

So write and tell about luminous beauties in your stories, your memories, your life, and your favorite tales of old. They are there, waiting for you to shed light upon them. Share them with private or public audiences to teach the young and remind everybody to reflect on the beauty of light.

Have you read any books or heard any stories with a shimmering, glowing, beauty? How might you describe such a character?

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Copyright 2014 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – K is for Know-How

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – K is for Know-How

Widespread on social media and in the oral tradition, here is one of my favorite light bulb jokes.

– How many stage managers does it take to change a…

– Done.

If you have been part of a theatrical production with a really good stage manager, you are fortunate. That means you have been in the holy presence of blissful know-how.

Stage managers are the can-do people of the theater. They are the air flight controllers of live productions that can teeter on the brink of chaos if anything goes amiss. Seeing a need before others can express it, they take care of it, and voila no problem or need. It’s not a question of whether it can be done, but rather, that it will, somehow, get done.

The technical skills required to put on theatrical productions are vast. But when stage managers integrate the vast technical tools of the theater, their personal skills and knowledge, and then make on the fly decisions that work, well that’s entertainment (not to mention sheer beauty).

Very young children look up to their all-powerful parents as they drive cars, make food, fix broken toys or craft new ones. To them, parents are magicians. They gawk at the beautiful, caring know-how of their mothers and fathers. (True, this changes for some of them as they get older, but then they have stage managers to worship forever after).

Young children and those who see stage managers in action instinctively know that know-how is a great and beautiful thing. Who in your life displays such a quality? What characters in stories that you already tell or ones your want to write could be valued as beautiful because of such a quality?

Although good stage managers might be the quintessence of know-how, there are people around the neighborhood, in the writer’s imagination, and on the storyteller’s tongue who have that quality too. Why not hold those characters up to the spotlight? The efficacious way that the bread gets sliced because of know-how is simply beautiful and deserves the final bow.

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Copyright 2014 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – J is for Jocular

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – J is for Jocular

When people think about what qualities they want in prospective friends and partners, good looks don’t rate as a topmost characteristic. How do I know this? I did a quick and quite unscientific search engine query of “answers” sites. People who posted on the sites I viewed mention a variety of qualities. But one quality repeatedly bubbled over the babble. Humor. Apparently, funny is pretty attractive.

People are drawn to humor. At gatherings, people flock into the room where they hear laughter. When life is dark, levity lightens it. In the face of a tragic image, jokes help people cope. Recent research suggests that although positive jokes are best, even snarky and negative humor can, to lesser effect, help us deal with the hard stuff. You can read more about that study here.

Humor draws us in and it helps us handle troubles.

Jokes, and more to the point, the people who create them, have the ability to enliven the world with laughter. What a wonderful, beautiful gift.

When someone defuses a tense situation with a joke, when laughter replaces angry words, an ugly moment is transformed to a beautiful one. When someone reminds us of the hilarity of situation, or can tease out the humor from an overworked job situation, that too is beautiful.

Who are the mirth givers in the stories you tell or write? Raise the jocular ones up on pedestals. Hold them up as the beautiful ones. Find the funny in characters who aren’t witty by nature and take notice of a beautiful comic moment. Rightly placed and smartly commented upon, jocularity is a beautiful thing.

People love the class clown is for a reason. Even if the clown’s humor doesn’t help raise class grades, that class clown helps raise class spirit. And beautiful, high spirits earn the highest marks.

Would love your thoughts on this: Exactly one week after the Malaysian plane disappeared, I heard my first joke about it. As I indicate above, research suggests that it is important for people to laugh to cope with darkness. But this is a raw and recent issue. What do you think? Is there a window of time that people need to not be hearing plane jokes? Is it never okay? I still don’t recall hearing 9/11 jokes here in America. Do some tragedies rate as “okay” for jokes and others not? Anyone up for a conversation about this?

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Copyright 2014 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – I is for Inventiveness

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – I is for Inventiveness

The elegant, creative solution to a problem is simply beautiful. When all the stressful puzzle pieces fall into place and pesky problems depart, life is awash in unadulterated loveliness. “Wouldn’t it be loverly” if such a skill could be bottled and handed out as swag at every library, school, and therapist’s office?

“Give me a half pound of turkey, three pickles, some handcrafted Bruschetta, and a liter of inventiveness to go, please?”

The creative spirit – inventiveness – is beautiful. Who turns lemons into lemonade? Who transforms rags into a glamorous wardrobe? Who cause colors to spring to life on canvases? Who can invent, dream up, hatch, concoct, fabricate, make, start up, birth? The people who harbor the muse of inventiveness, that’s who! And they are beautiful.

Think about any story of any type. Tales turn on a problem, conflict or dilemma that a protagonist faces. From superheroes to princesses to angry housewives to your 7th grade teacher, if they are in a story, they have to solve or overcome something.

And there is beauty is in the solution. Maybe a completely creative, impulsive fix; perhaps it is a carefully devised, thoughtful solution. The point is that removing obstacles usually takes more than luck. It takes originality interwoven with brainpower, a teaspoon of the inspiration, which is then kneaded to perfection with experience. And the more unusual the solution, the more beautiful.

If you are writing or telling a story, any character can take a moment to reflect on the action of another. Characters can respond directly to others with compliments about another’s beauty because of a breathtakingly beautiful solution to a predicament.

When we create something new and different, people take notice. We are drawn to new things. Think about it. Don’t most people turn their heads when a baby is in the room? Though we love familiarity and ritual, we also love what is fresh and move forward with the new and the creative.

Inventiveness is a term that encompasses solutions of the mind and heart. It connotes science, humanities, and the arts. Inventive people are creative; creative people are inventive. Honor the dream weavers for the beauty they hold within.

Characters whom you tell and write about: fictional ones, real ones, true to life ones, can be described by their creative approach to the world. No matter what we look like, we are all great beauties during moments of inventiveness.

What people or characters that you know or have written/told about are beautiful for their inventiveness?

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Copyright 2014 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – H is for Heart

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – H is for Heart

Here is where things can get dicey because H could also be for “Hot Button Issue.”

If you have been following this A-Z blog series, you know that I have been considering how printed and spoken words can be used to reimagine beauty. My goal is to expand and improve cultural definitions of beauty. Inspired by a beautiful girl who was born with a rare genetic syndrome, this series is meant to reconsider how we portray beauty. The idea is that beauty can and should be inclusive of people with appearances and ages that diverge from popularly propagated images in media and illustrated books.

It is said that beauty is only skin deep. But what does that really mean? And how can we give that trite phrase some teeth? How does beauty get under the skin? By way of the heart perhaps.

But here is the dicey, hot-button part.

In many of the old stories, women were depicted as having good and beautiful hearts. By itself, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But it also so happens that a bunch of those characters were passive and powerless. Many of us grew up saddled with that imagery. No one I know wants modern girls and women to look up to the passive and powerless or to feel beholden to some wily rescue dude. They want bold and active princess role models marching stridently onward to proclaim, in the modern sense, that women are strong and can do whatever they want in the world. That is why characters with beautiful hearts might bother those of us who associate goodness with passivity and powerlessness.

But don’t lose heart! Having a beautiful heart is not a synonym for being passive! Heart doesn’t have to be about helpless, namby-pamby women who wilt while awaiting rescue and long term care! First, there is nothing wrong with kindness and goodness (we need to reclaim that people). And second, a beautiful heart can mean other things too.

Bold activists have more heart than a candy store during Valentine’s season. People who turn their caring nature to social causes hearten others. People whose acts encourage and support others, who have the heart to walk the talk, those are beautiful people because of their hearts. A person with a beautiful heart can be described by the depth he cares and by the way she conscientiously applies her values. Examples from life and literature include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ghandi, and Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White. For me, all three are heroic souls with beautiful hearts.

By describing beauty in terms of the heart, we deepen our appreciation of people. We celebrate those who make their heartfelt actions felt by others. When we talk about beautiful people we have known or when we write or tell about characters in stories, let’s consider the heart of the matter: No longer skin deep, beauty can be deep at heart.

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Copyright 2014. The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – G is for Grace

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to this blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

G is for Grace

What is it about ballet dancers? Their arms swim through the air like Monet’s paintbrush must have swished on canvas. Every gesture is fluid. Every flick of the wrist is delicate, planned, and full of grace.

A young teen in my son’s dancing school walks onstage. Her movements can be as simple as a toss of her head or the arching of her back. If that is all she does, I still suck in my breath. The young woman embodies grace. Whenever she moves, I believe that I am witnessing art in motion. Grace is simply beautiful.

Once, in a restaurant, I was served by a man who might have been ballet trained. Every simple placement of drink and silverware was gentle, artful, and beautiful to watch. I was more interested in his act of bringing the food than in the food itself. There was no clinking or scraping. There were no awkward hesitations. Everything floated down to the table, perfectly placed by a man with a serene countenance. Hungry though I was, the attractiveness of the food on my plate was nothing compared to the beautiful grace of the server’s movements. I never forgot him.

Grace makes an impression.

But graceful beauty is not confined to movement and gesture. Graceful interactions, manners, politeness – in short, graciousness – is beautiful to witness and to receive.

When we speak or write of beauty, let’s not forget how beautiful grace is. Grace comes through movement and in the gracious way people behave toward one another. The dancer, the polite and courteous one, the gentle soul who moves artfully through life, these are people who are beautiful. They are beautiful because of their grace and because their grace contributes to the beauty of the world.

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Copyright 2014. The Storycraftes. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – F is for Frolicsome

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to the blog, welcome!

For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc.(in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – F is for Frolicsome

The other night I attended a school dodgeball tournament that included high school teachers, sports team members, bus drivers, National Honor Society students, and school maintenance personnel. But one team, The Dodgefathers, was made up of school administrators. Costumed in black with grease markings on their cheeks, they were captained by the school superintendent. With darting, mischievous eyes and energy that filled the gym, that middle aged administrator rocked the house. And though the younger students were playful too, his frolicsome nature was particularly riveting.

Everyone knows someone who is part leprechaun, part otter, and part human. Such a frolicsome soul is a delight to be around. Full of energy and fun, a frolicsome person spices up a group, makes classes enjoyable, sparkles at meetings, and transforms a dull party into a hoot. Now that is beautiful.

This quality is one that anybody can possess. Although it is true that some people, by nature, are kitten-like while others are more Eeyore-like, everybody can have moods that include bursts of playfulness. And when such frolicsome moods break through a professional or personality veneer, it rates as a beautiful thing.

There is something else about frolicsome people. They can be any age at all. As I’m sure you realize, much of what our culture popularly sees as beauty focuses on youth. But what is wonderful is that being frolicsome actually improves with age.

We expect kittens and babies to be playful. Play has traditionally been an important part of a young child’s education. But when we witness playfulness in older people, it is even more engaging because we don’t expect it.

That is why the school superintendent was especially beautiful to watch. I expected a stodgy administrator and saw, instead, a frolicsome spirit.

Babies, middle-aged folks, elders, teens, camp directors, the young, the young at heart, disabled folk, parents, teachers, even bosses can be playful otters or fun-loving leprechauns while everyone delights in being around them. So when you think about or describe beauty in stories or conversations, consider the beauty of spirited and frolicsome souls that ignite fun and set play on fire. Just what would this world be without them?

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Copyright 2014. The Storyrafters. All rights reserved.

Reimagining Beauty – E is for Eyes

Blogging A to Z

If you are new to the blog, welcome!

For my April A to Z Challenge, I am blogging about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with varying body types, racial backgrounds, and ages, disabilities, illnesses, etc. (in other words, just about anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.

Reimagining Beauty – E is for Eyes

In a school storytelling performance last winter, I noticed one student in the crowd. His big, round eyes radiated so much joy, it was very beautiful to behold. I sought his eyes out at every turn. When the show was over, he stood up along with the other kids in his class. That was when I noticed something else about him. He was significantly smaller than his classmates, his face was uniquely shaped and his skin was dappled. But that wasn’t the reason he stood out. It was the dazzling beauty of his eyes.

It is a natural human tendency to look at eyes. They are a crucial part of human communication. Eye contact creates intimacy and connection. Eyes are doorways to the inner recesses where the human soul resides.

Facial structure, hair, skin, body, all of that aside, anyone can look into the eyes of another and see great beauty. The warm depth of brown eyes, the shimmering blue clarity of blue eyes, the gem-like luster of green eyes – as physical objects, eyes are lovely to behold.

When we describe the beauty of others, why not focus on the eyes? (pun intended). There are many beautiful things to say about them! Eyes twinkle, eyes dance, eyes sparkle, eyes penetrate, eyes are steady, eyes engage, eyes connect, eyes laugh, eyes communicate. They can light up, cast down, glow, and love.

But there is much more to the eyes than their beauty as physical objects. Eyes tell stories. They can glisten, big with wonder, or they can be glazed and misty with memory. Eyes can show fear and love, compassion and happiness and the rich palette of human emotion. They twinkle with recognition. They speak truth.

Beauty shines out of people through their eyes.

There are many stories, existing ones and ones yet to be told, with beautiful characters. Because eyes are a connection to the person inside the body, the doorway to who they really are, they are like a key to a treasure box. Anyone can hold the key to the treasure box, and best of all, anyone can be the treasure.

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How do you describe the beautiful eyes that you have seen or imagined?

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Copyright 2014. The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

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