Stories and metaphor are essential to any religious language, but perhaps even more so to Unitarian Universalists who are not bound by creed. Stories give us an opportunity to speak about larger things, using a broader vocabulary than we might in our every day conversations.
Religious educator Rev. Sophia Lyon Fahs (1876-1978) understood this importance, particularly in the realm of teaching children about religion. In this introduction to her Beginnings of Earth and Sky: Stories Old and New, she talks about the very evolution of stories of creation, and the human desire to explain the world around us.
by Sophia Lyon Fahs
Long, long ago around a campfire in the evening twilight, a tribe of shepherds sat talking. They looked out across the valley — and over the hills — at the changing colors of the sky — rose and orange beams spreading overhead — pink, fleecy clouds floating among them — golden light coming from beyond out of the nowhere — or was it out of the everywhere?
There was too much greatness all around for anyone to speak. These shepherds of old felt themselves a part of something very large and high and wonderful.
At last someone asked, “From where has this great beauty come?”
Then another asked, “And how did it all begin at the very beginning?”
The wise old men shook their heads. The wise old women shook their heads, too. Everybody sat around the fire wondering. Some grew tired of trying to wonder. “What difference does it make anyway?” they said.
Others could not stop wondering. They said, “Perhaps we can find out something.” So they kept on puzzling about beginnings. At night even in their dreams some would keep on wondering.
Then one night somebody dreamed a whole story through. It seemed to him as though someone had come down to him from the sky and told him the story. Others while guarding their sheep in the daytime felt great thoughts come to them.
In the evenings, these story makers told the tales to their people. Those who listened would ask to hear them again and again. Children, when they grew up, told the stories to their children. Everybody came to know the stories well.
Sometimes they sang the stories. Sometimes they danced them in pantomime. Those who watched beat time on hollow logs or clapped their hands.
Around many campfires, many times, people have sat watching sunsets and wondering. Around campfires in Asia — campfires in Europe — campfires in Africa — campfires in America — campfires all over the world — campfires long ago. Even around campfires today we sit wondering.
Source: from Beginnings of Earth and Sky: Stories Old and New, by Rev. Sophia Lyon Fahs (1876-1978), “Around Campfires,” pages 3-4, via Google Books.Tags: beauty, beginning, creation, metaphor, religious education, Sophia Lyon Fahs, stories