Stories for the Inner Ear LO26720

From: Mark Spain (
Date: 05/24/01

Replying to LO26616 --

Here's the results of my request

Does anyone know of any effective, inspiring short stories to read out
loud to a team of people learning to be open and to collaborate powerfully
with each other? I am seeking to create a collection of stories to help
facilitate organisational learning and change in a respectful way.

These stories would be like parables or metaphors to help people reflect
curiously on learning, humanity, success, failure, hopes, desires, fears,
losses, perseverance, ignorance, futility .... and yet celebrate a way
forward that is uplifting. These stories may involve people, different
cultures, animals and landscapes.

Can anyone help with their favourite story or source of stories?

The responses are as follows (with additions I have found on this list)

1. Bill Harvey <> recommends Aseops Fables in teaching
change management and suggested a site that might prove useful:

[Host's Note: That's an email address... Here's a Web link to the
discussion group

2. Janet Macaluso <> said check out the book
"Friedman's Fables" by Edwin Friedman. They are very short fables that
teach lessons and can certainly apply to work.

3.Roy Greenhalgh <> with Rick Karash's endorsement
suggests "Shadows of the Neanderthal" and "Outlearning the Wolves"
("systems thinking" stories) from Pegasus Communications Roy says "We used the latter during a one-day
class ahead of the Systems Thinking conference last year. A group of over
60 adults (!) reading this story in part-reading, the rest of us forming
the chorus -- was a fascinating experience. It was also immense fun!. I
think the stories contain many of the qualities you look for. They are
also superb allegories of systems thinking, with a section at the end
looking at "towards a learning culture", "making learning happen", theory,
methods and tools, etc."

[Host's Note: ..Rick]

4. Jan Lelie <> recommends using some of the original
Pooh stories (not the ones by Walt Disney) and On the other hand: let
people tell (or collect) their own stories: then they experience learning
to be open and collaborate themselves. You might collect some before hand
and start to tell them. Also, people could prepare a story in small
groups, using pictures, sounds, coloured labels and then tell it using
these materials. A pciture is also a good way to "store" the "story".

5. Don Dwiggins <> had warm wishes to all lovers
of stories and offered that the topic of stories in LOs has been discussed
several times on this list. Try the following URL for a good sample:

(Exercise for the reader: how could you change the above URL to search for
"calf path"?)

one day through the primeval wood
a calf walked home as good calves should;
but made a trail all bent askew,
a crooked trail as calves all do.

since then three hundred years have fled,
and I infer the calf is dead
but still he left behind his trail,
and thereby hangs my moral tale.

the trail was taken up next day
by a lone dog that passed that way;
and then a wise bell wether sheep
pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,

and drew the flock behind him, too
as good bell wethers always do.
and from that day, o'er hill and glade,
through these old woods a path was made.

and many men wound in and out,
and dodged and turned and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath
because 'twas such a crooked path.

but still they followed... do not laugh,
the first migrations of that calf.
this forest path became a lane,
that bent and turned and turned again.

this crooked lane became a road,
where many a poor horse with his load
toiled on beneath the burning sun
and traveled some three miles in one.

and thus a century and a half
they trod the footsteps of that calf.
the years passed on in swiftness fleet
the road became a village street;

and this, before men were aware,
a city's crowded thoroughfare.
and soon the central street was this
of a renowned metropolis.

and men two centuries and a half
trod in the footsteps of that calf.
a hundred thousand men were led
by one calf near three centuries dead.

for men are prone to go it blind
along the calf-paths of the mind
and work away from sun to sun
to do what other men have done,

they follow in the beaten track,
and out and in, and forth and back.
and still their devious course pursue,
to keep the path that others do.

they keep the path a sacred groove
along which all their lives they move.
but how the wise old wood gods laugh
who saw the first primeval calf!
-- Author Unknown

6. Rebecca S. Bell <> had fleeting memories of
a story for children having to do with fish. Now the point of the story
of the fish is that a mother fish is explaining to her child what some
other land animal is. And the beauty of the story is that the little fish
interprets everything she tells him in terms of a fish. So the
illustrations show what is in the little fish's mind. Therefore, it gets
across the point that, in teaching, the teacher must always consider what
the learner's frame of reference or context is and start from there.
Rebecca was going to try to do more research to find the details of this

7. Andrew Campbell <> offers a short statement of you
being the story that you believe in...."Your lives are a letter written in
our hearts and everyone can read it." 2 Corinthians. 3:2 Andrew
additionally tells of Galileo

Galileo writes,
"Once upon a time, in a very lonely place, there lived a man endowed by
nature with extraordinary curiosity and a very penetrating mind. For a
pastime he raised birds, whose songs he much enjoyed; and he observed with
great admiration the happy contrivance by which they could transform at will
the very air they breathed into a variety of sweet songs. One night this man
chanced to hear a delicate song close to his house, and being unable to
connect it with anything but some small bird he set out to capture it. When
he arrived at a road he found a shepherd boy who was blowing into a kind of
hollow stick while moving his fingers about on the wood, thus drawing from
it a variety of notes similar to those of a bird, though by a quite
different method. Puzzled, but impelled by his natural curiosity, he gave
the boy a calf in exchange for this flute and returned to solitude. But
reading that if he had not chanced to meet the boy he would never have
learned of the existence of a new method of forming musical notes and the
sweetest songs, he decided to travel to distant places in the hope of
meeting with some new adventure."
Subsequently, the man discovered that there are many other ways of producing
musical notes - from strings and organs, to the swift vibrations on the
wings of mosquitoes and the 'sweet and sonorous shrilling of crickets by
snapping their wings together, though they cannot fly at all'. But there was
an ultimate disappointment waiting for him: "Well, after this man had come
to believe that no more ways of forming tones could possibly exist ... when,
I say, this man believed he had seen everything, he suddenly found himself
once more plunged deeper into ignorance and bafflement than ever. For having
captured in his hands a cicada, he failed to diminish its strident noise
either by closing its mouth or stopping its wings, yet he could not see it
move the scales that covered its body, or any other thing. At last he lifted
up the armour of its chest and there he saw some thin hard ligaments
beneath; thinking the sound might come from their vibration, he decided to
break them in order to silence it. But nothing happened until his needle
drove too deep, and transfixing the creature he took away its life with its
voice, so that he was still unable to determine whether the song had
originated in those ligaments. And by this experience, his knowledge was
reduced to diffidence, so that when asked how sounds were created he used to
answer tolerantly that although he knew a few ways, he was sure that many
more existed which were not only unknown but unimaginable."

Hubris is temporarily submerged by humility. Galileo was the first of a
race of modern experimental scientists convinced of the infallibility of
their 'exact empirical methods'; in fact he created the type. It comes as
a surprise to hear him talk about things 'not only unknown but
unimaginable'. But this ultimate modesty, derived from a sense of wonder
close to mysticism, is found in all great scientists (and artists;-) -
even if hidden by an arrogant facade, and allowed to express itself only
on rare occasions. Koestler.

"The Master said, To make a mistake and not change; this is what one calls
making a mistake." Confucian Analects

8. How George Bernard Shaw felt about his own life
"This is the true joy of life. The being used for a purpose recognized by
yourself as a mighty one. The being a force of nature instead of a feverish,
selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world
will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long
as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be
thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I
rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a
sort of splendid torch which I've got hold of for the moment and I want to
make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future
 - George Bernard Shaw

9. AM de Lange in a separate posting on this list says
"many a "leader" cannot and will not handle the questioning of their
rulership because of the changes which will follow upon such questioning. In
fact, when I want to probe the authenticity of a leader, I merely observe
how that leader reacted, reacts or will react to anybody else's questioning.
Think of teachers as another example. Who had the most profound influence on
you -- those who questioned you sincerely or those who flooded you with

10. The Invitation, May 1994 -- by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your
heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your
dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you
have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine
or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it. I want to
know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with
wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the
limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disapoint another to be true to yourself; if you
can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. I want
to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy. I want to
know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day, and if
you can source your life from God's presence. I want to know if you can
live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the

It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not
shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like
the company you keep in the empty moments.

11. RISK

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love... live.
Chained by his certitudes he is a slave; he has forfeited freedom.
Only a person who risks is free...


12. Here is your assignment

1. You will receive a body
You may like it or not, but it will be yours for the entire period this time
2. You will learn lessons
You are enroled in a full-time, informal school called life. Each day in
this school, you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like
the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.
3. There are no mistakes only lessons
Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The 'failed'
experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that
ultimately 'works'.
4. A lesson is repeated until it is learned
A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned
it, then you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end
There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are
alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6. 'There' is no better than 'here'
When your 'there' has become a 'here', you will simply obtain another
'there' that will, again, look better than 'here'.
7. Others are merely mirrors of you
You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to
you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you
You have all the tools and resources you need: what you do with them is up
to you. The choice is yours.
9. The answer lies inside you
The answers to life's questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look,
listen and trust.
10. Whether you think you can or you can't, in either case you will be right
- think about it.
                                Author unknown

" This mountain of release is such that the
ascent's most painful at the start, below;
the more you rise, the milder it will be.
And when the slope feels gentle to the point that
climbing up sheer rock is effortless
as though you were gliding downstream in a boat,
then you will have arrived where this path ends."

Dante (1261-1321)

14. "The Watermelon Hunter" (Shah 1970)

Once upon a time, there was a man who journeyed from his own country to
the world known as the Land of Fools.

He immediately saw a number of people running away in terror from a field
where they had been trying to reap wheat. "There is a monster in that
field", they screamed at him as they ran past. He looked closely, and saw
that it was only a watermelon.

He offered to kill "the monster" for them. When he had cut the melon from
its stalk, he took a slice and began to eat it. The people became even
more terrified of him than they had been of the melon. They drove him away
with pitchforks, crying - "He will kill us next unless we get rid of him!"

It so happened that a long time later, another person also travelled to
the Land of Fools, and the same thing started to happen to her. But
instead of offering to help them with "the monster", she agreed with them
that it might be dangerous. By tip-toeing away from it with them she
gained their confidence. She spent a long time with them in their homes
until she could teach them, little by little, the basic facts about
water-melons. This enabled them not only to lose their fear of melons but
in time, to cultivate them for themselves.

This story came from an earlier posting on this list

15. Ways of learning
A young man who lived in a small inland village in Greece had never been to
the ocean and wanted to learn about it. He spent hours and hours in quiet
libraries reading books that explained and described it and he learned many
things about it. He could describe its size, name the creatures that lived
in it, and he even knew the colours the setting sun cast on it at the end of
the day. His mind was filled with all sorts of wonderful impressions and
images of this thing called ocean.

Then one day, he was invited to take a journey to the coast. When he
arrived, the sun was setting over the water. The sound of the breakers,
and the splashing foam was magnificently beautiful. He ran down to where
it lapped against the shore, dipped his hands into it, and brought some of
the salty water to his lips. Taking off his shoes, he walked into the
ocean, and felt the water gently pull the sand out from under his feet. As
the water swirled around his legs, and the rich coloured sunlight danced
off the water into his eyes, he thought to himself, "So this is the
ocean!" - NLP Comprehensive Steve and Connirae Andreas


My reflection on this process is that
 - there are many stories and sources of stories
 - stories that children understand are most powerful for me
 - stories that create clear pictures of people, living things and
landscapes in my mind are most effective
 - stories with no interpretation and leave you with your own silent space
for reflection have the most impact for me
 - I valued the effort that other people put in to help me and hope that
this feedback is useful for them
 - I could have been more precise in describing how I was intending to use
the stories in my life (see below)
 - if you have any more wonderful stories let me (and others) know

I'm using stories to read out to a group of people, as a thought to
reflect on, at the start of each session after a break in a management
development learning program. It is followed by a short silence for people
to make their own meaning of without discussion before moving on to the
process of the session.

The types of stories I had in mind are like
1. How do you train a whale to jump over a stick high above the water? Then
tell an engaging story about holding the stick up high with a fish and
getting no results. Then put the stick in the water and let the whale swim
over it and then give it a fish and then keep lifting the stick higher.

2. A frog being forced to learn to fly by being thrown out the window of a
multi story building with ensuing additions as a metaphor for how managers
expect people to perform without any support

3. The man who walks a long way in a barren landscape to bring back water
from the river no realising he has a leaking container and seeing the
beautiful flowers that begin growing along the route he takes.

4. The boy who is throwing one of the millions of starfish washed up on
the beach and dying back into the sea and not giving up on the
overwhelming task by saying that "It makes a difference for this one".

I've heard these stories over the years at various times but haven't got a
source for collecting them with all their finely crafted nuances, to use

I'm still exploring.

Life is good
Best wishes
Mark Spain

[Host's Note: Mark, thank you for this exemplary summary posting. ..Rick]


Mark Spain <>

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