“Our DNA indicates we are all stories waiting to be told,” thus Roger Rosenblatt began his interview with the married couple—Jane Pauley, journalist and Gary Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury— day one of five during my Road Scholar week at Chautauqua.
“Every story, in my book, is a different puzzle,” Pauley said, “and as we interview or read, we may think the story has little to do with you or me but then, inevitably, you find that connection— that illumination that reveals something about yourself.”
How gratifying to be among a community of 5,000 listeners and to listen, first hand, to the why and wherefore of the inclination to create, to tell a story.
Trudeau is motivated by curiosity. He writes Doonesbury as a week-long story. Often beginning in the middle, his inspiration challenges him to “reverse engineer” to begin at the beginning, to create Monday’s edition. He believes that people evolve with different skill sets, storytelling being one of them. He described the storyteller as “indispensable” because the storyteller chronicles events and memories that “helps the rest of the tribe understand how to move forward.”
Over and over, the theme returned to how stories enable us to drop into the story and shape our own meaning. Having seen Jane Pauley on television, her voice and style were not new to me. Live, she was witty, incisive and intimate as she spoke of how she is an early riser who needs immediacy. She checks her phone, the papers, makes coffee long before Trudeau arrives at the breakfast table.
At breakfast, Trudeau is quiet, while Pauley is eager to share. As they described their ritual, I perceived links to Marv’s and my story. Like Pauley, Marv is up at dawn, in his sweats, checking his e-mail, writing a draft, then onto the elliptical long before I remove my sleep mask to open the shades. I am first at the table, eager to read the comics (yes, always Doonesbury), followed by the news. When Marv and I reconnoiter over fresh brewed coffee, like Pauley, I am eager to talk. Like Trudeau, Marv is quiet, but willing to listen.
Rosenblatt contrasted the complementary between men and women as he pointed out how women have a tendency to sense the whole of the story that allows them to pinpoint the essence. “That’s why I put puzzles together,” Pauley said. “That’s what I’m looking for. The story is part of the whole.”
When Marv has completed a working draft, I find it waiting at my place first thing— the unspoken request to read as soon as possible, to see the whole, ask the questions, so that he can get back to shaping and revising.
I am grateful for the remarkable opportunity to have seen Marv and myself in Pauley’s and Trudeau’s story, and to consider the communal patterns of story telling. For the rest of the month, I shall post more stories of Rosenblatt and friends, creative expression at Chautauqua.