Shadows of Substance
If the Muppets are purposed to help people achieve their destinies and restore their identity, then how can you help the audience discover those things? You cannot simply tell someone what it is because though it is your opinion, it may be wrong. At best, you may simply not ‘see’ a person. At worst you may end up controlling them because you may think you know better. So, how do you help a person discover these things on their own so that it is accurate and authentic?
Stories are better than sermons.
When communicating something on a mythical level, there needs to be readiness in the heart of the audience. This happen through story. The readiness is the place and opportunity of ‘owned revelation’. You may tell someone the truth, but to them it is still an opinion. Shadow stories are representations of substance, but they are not the substance themselves. Think of storytelling as a shadow and a sermon as substance.
So when we are dealing either shadows or substance, there are different forms of communication, and different kind of audiences. We have talked previously about the audience of the Muppets and their makeup, but in regards to reaching them, I want to highlight two forms of communication: Indicative and Expressive. Knowing the difference of these will help us know how to affectively restore and transform the audience into their places of revelation.
Indicative language is direct and on the nose, it can be heavy-handed, even controlling. This language is best only for those with an audience who already share the same language. However, when speaking to another people group, Expressive language is more effective.
Indication is like soap opera dialogue, political speak or lectures. Expression is storytelling using “shadowed language” or “dark sayings”. Max L. Margolis says, “The “dark saying” is the popular “riddle” raised to the dignity of elaborate production. It is in short an allegorical sentence requiring interpretation.” (1)
A well told story grips the heart of the audience through the emotions. You see characters experiencing things and taking action through circumstances of conflict. There is a goal or problem and a hero or ensemble that must overcome a situation. But while stories and expression have methods of indirect communication, we must also know that there are different kinds of shadows.
Shadows represent substance, and in this blog article, I want to highlight three different types of shadows: The shadow of death, the shadow of life, and your own shadow.
The worldview of the artist is the substance contained within the form of his art. Therefore that worldview spills out and forms the shadow in the art-form. Shadows can be any expression of art: movies, writing, acting, dance, painting, singing, music, etc. But not all shadows are the same. Some shadows have substances that lead to the revelation of death. They can be very well crafted with excellent skill and talent, but the issues within it produce death in the culture.
But shadows of life are rare. Too often certain people want to tell us something, with all good intentions, but their message is controlling and heavy handed. They say they contain the truth, but they end up forcing their message down our throats. They end up trying to control us. They want to give the substance of life, but their message comes off manipulative and forced instead. They also often end up reaching people in their own language and ultimately do not truly connect with the rest of the world. Shadows of life, on the other hand, bring freedom.
Shadows are meant to create discovery. Inside the shadows are hidden treasures, not hidden from you, but hidden for you. The treasures cannot just be handed to the audience, they come by revelation, or ah-ha moments.
The context of the story, the characters, the plot, the themes, etc all exist to create an atmosphere of emotional readiness in the audience’s heart. When the moment of release or ‘ah-ha’ happens, the audience catches the revelation in their own way. They can have a healing or understanding of something profound. They have the chance to experience something that a lecture or direct language would never create. The shadow language stories can be amusing and entertaining, but instead of distracting you away from something, they draw you toward something.
Finally you, too, produce a shadow. What is the substance in your shadow? What is the gold in your shadow? What areas about yourself do you need to discover? What treasures do others need to find about you? Stories that produce life are rare, so let’s discover how we can tell our story in a way that produces life in others.
In my next blog entry I will make the case for the need of a new mythology and the potential for a new cultural renaissance.
- Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Entry for ‘DARK SAYINGS’”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. 1915.
Originally published at www.loversdreamersandme.com.