All culture is based on stories both true and fictional. No group’s history is without its perspective. But perspective can be skewed for a variety of reasons. Skewed or not, the telling should be honest. As artists, we are taught that our stories don’t have to be factual to be honest. By honest I mean the moment of creative expression is genuine even if the artist is fictionalizing an event. Children are the best examples of this honest expression. They often tell meandering stories with no obvious point. But they tell their stories with so much passion using the tools available, there is no doubt they are being completely honest in their expression.
Artists have a responsibility to tell stories with childlike honesty. Artists can use this to powerfully influence whole societies. Their stories can have greater influence than anyone else’s including generals, politicians and scientists. That is not to say that those fields do not have their fair share of story tellers. Politicians are especially adept at telling powerful stories that move populations. People in all fields from medicine to garbage collecting have the potential to contribute to cultural stories. But of the artist, it is expected.
Storytelling is the primary role of the artist. Interpreting events and expressing ideas in relation to her environment, exploring other environments, fictional and factual; these are the responsibilities of the artist. But what is the value of story telling? Story telling provides perspective. It organizes our jumbled culture into a cohesive whole. There is an old Norwegian saying (I know because I Googled it), “It is the duty of the present to convey the voices of the past to the ears of the future.” The ears of the future depend on us to be as honest as we are able to be.