I am currently reading Neil Gaiman ‘s 2005 fantasy novel, Anansi Boys. Early on, Gaiman’s protagonist, Fat Charlie Nancy, discovers to his alarm and dismay that he is a son of the ancient West African god Anansi. His neighbor, Mrs. Higgler, tries to explain:
Anansi was a spider, when the world was young, and all the stories were being told for the first time. he used to get himself into trouble, and he used to get himself out of trouble. The story of the Tar-Baby, the one they tell about Bre’r Rabbit? That was Anansi’s story first….
Anansi stories go back as long as people been telling each other stories…. (42)
Anansi gave his name to stories. Every story is Anansi’s. Once, before the stories were Anansi’s, they belonged to Tiger…, and the tales were dark and evil, and filled with pain, and none of them ended happily. But that was a long time ago. These days, the stories are Anansi’s. (43)
Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look so pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.
What’s that? You want to know if Anansi looked like a spider? Sure he did, except when he looked like a man.
No, he never changed his shape. It’s just a matter of how you tell the story. That’s all. (45)
In those words, “It’s just a matter of how you tell the story,” Gaiman gives me another way to express a central theme of this blog.
Religious language is about how we perceive and experience the numenous, not about the numenous itself—the larger, intermingling realities which we sense yet which operate beyond the reach of conceptualization and language.
I celebrate storytelling, the only truthful way we have to tell each other about the awe-inspiring, powerful reality of the Great Mystery.
And so it is.