Joseph Campbell used the term apotheosis to describe the burgeoning of consciousness that the story’s mythical hero experiences after defeating her foe, or ghost, or predator – the kind of awareness that feels feathery and weightless, as if flying. For the last few months while writing my submission for Winged, I have been considering how stories function as a form of such apotheosis.
Stories are consciousness and, as many have said before me, they are living things. Stories evolve as and when we do. They function to elevate and advance our humanity, and illustrate aspects of our human spirit. They heal, guide, explain, agitate, and invigorate us. They convince us of the impossible and awaken us to what is possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in being a child of the eighties and remembering the first time I inherently understood that stories do live was thanks to Michael Ende’s Falkor and The Neverending Story.
Prolific novelist Alice Hoffman says each story is always made for two: the teller and the listener, the writer and the reader. Whether we are writing or reading them, stories change us. They make us clutch our throats to catch our breath, and feel fire in our bellies to fight for something we believe is just. Through stories, we awaken, we remember, we love, and we grieve. Through stories we discover what has been hidden from our view and are reminded what we care about and who we are when we are too busy/tired/distracted to remember. Stories fill us with uncapped skies, which we can float through at our will. Stories are hope – recognising the call to action within stories is in itself a hopeful act, for within each story hides an incantation for change. Novelist Mohsin Hamid said storytelling alters the storyteller. Or writer, or reader. And a story is altered by being told. Or written, or read.
I caught up with a dear friend last week, a fellow writer of far more experience and acclaim than myself. She asked me about the writing routine I’m trying to re-establish now that I’m back in the UK from a lengthy trip to my homeland Australia. She sat quietly, listening deeply. When our conversation turned to the novel I am writing she said to me, “Let’s be honest. There are enough books in the world for everyone to read. But if you don’t write your story, here is the non-negotiable truth: it won’t ever exist.”
This non-negotiable truth is why the existence of an anthology of stories like Winged is so important. Winged is our specific and artistic response to the bee and pollinator crisis. It carries within it impassioned stories issuing calls to action in varying forms. Without such books as Winged, our stories, our burgeoning consciousnesses, would not ‘exist’. They would remain untold, unpainted, unwritten, uncomposed, and unexpressed. The power within each of our stories would remain dormant, and we would never realise the potential of what telling them could possibly achieve.
Each story is always made for two: the teller and the listener, the writer and the reader. The worth of our stories is in sharing them.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver once asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, and precious life?” To answer I would be proud to present Ms Oliver with Winged, an anthology of stories for change. A lesson in how stories can teach us to fly.