Reality. The story we long to tell each other.

I’ve been doing a lot or research on how we connect digitally for some upcoming presentations.  Specifically related to church engagement – but its brought me to some fascinating places.

Today’s fascinating find is Juliet’s House in Shakespeare’s Verona.  Their tourism guide urges: As testified by the coat of arms on the internal arch-way of the court-yard, this house belonged to the “Dal Cappello” or “Cappelletti”. The building, dating back to the 13th and renovated in the last century, features the balcony where Romeo promised his beloved Juliet eternal love in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

This is simply not true.  The house in question may have been owned by a “Cappelletti” family (kinda sounds like Capulet).  Juliet was a character in Shakespeare’s play.  Today, hundreds of tourists flock to this house.  You can take your picture with a statue of Juliet.  You can have your wedding on the balcony.  Verona has had to clamp down on this tradition due to congestion in the town.

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I find myself wondering what this says about our human needs and abilities.  Why does this happen?  Is it a human need to insert ourselves into this story, one that resonates so powerfully with the human condition? Do we even care if the story itself is “real”?  And what does “real” mean?

I wonder about all this as I consider the “dangers” of the internet.  Overwhelming 24/7 news feeds, constant engagement, ability to criticize and do harm to others while remaining anonymous.  But didn’t we create stories and news long before the internet existed?  Who’s inventing the truth?  And how do we know it’s the Truth?

So what about the bible?  We as Quakers have always believed firstly in direct inspiration from God – enhanced or opened to us sometimes through prayerful reading of scripture.

My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew him not, but by revelation, as he who hath the key did open, and as the Father of life drew me to his son by his Spirit. Then the Lord gently led me along, and let me see his love, which was endless and eternal, surpassing all the knowledge that men have in the natural state, or can get by history or books; and that love let me see myself, as I was without him; and I was afraid of all company, for I saw them perfectly, where they were, through the love of God which let me see myself. – George Fox

So where’s the story?  And how do we “know” we are listening rightly?  I would suggest it is in the gathered meeting, the waiting and testing, and the role of ministers and elders in our community to birth the message of faithfulness, the Way forward, the call as it is to be received by us in this time.  And that is simply not always clear to us without some time and prayer and help.

And a note on this story?  I’m not sure it matters if it’s “true”.  Romeo and Juliet is a time-honored shape of existence, a tale of forbidden love, a sharing of how some control others.  We KNOW it to be true – even if the story itself is not.   Is that the important message?

Moses dismayed, standing looking at God’s people as they screw up and are unfaithful again. Noah being told to build an ark against all rational advice.  The prodigal son being welcomed home. Jesus being put to death by the empire. The human story, and how we relate to each other, contains many chapters.  It is in the sharing again of those stories that we create them as useful guides in this time.  How do we use those stories today – not to debate their validity, but to learn from them as model of faithful living?  How is your story writing itself into this greater book of faithfulness?

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