Posts filed under ‘Alex Haley’

Oral Traditions in Action

In civilizations where citizens did not have ample access to a writing system, history and stories were passed down orally in the form of repeated tales and passages.  It is thought that Homer's Odyssey actually pre-existed its written form for sometime being recited and tweaked by poets.  The Gospels in the Bible are pretty readily accepted as being written nearly a century after the crucifixion, a generation after the original followers.  As a more contemporary example, the powerful stories in Roots were passed down verbally to each new generation all the way down to Alex Haley.  

Well in our modern times, where 30 million people have blogs, you can still see subtle signs of oral traditions still in action.  This week, I saw at least two examples:

QualTrax Demos
I got to watch two of our newest account managers perform their QualTrax demos.  During their presentations, I could catch snippets here and there that I could attribute to different sources– other account managers, our training coordinator and even a passage on ISO 9000 Standards that was almost verbatim the way I describe it.  Most interestingly, there were phrases that I use that I have not yet uttered in front of these two presenters, but I had to their teachers and their peers.  And some of those phrases likely originated from my predecessors!

So just like the ancient epics, the QualTrax demo includes repeated "verses" and the influences of the past "poets"…yet still has the unique touch and perspective of the current orator.

Abled-Body Young Man
Story-telling is a favorite activity of my extended family, myself included.  This weekend I had the opportunity to retell the story of when my brother, Jay, was watching my grandfather who was pretty elderly at the time– roughly 92-93 years of age. 

At one point Grandpa lamented about how he could no longer go to church.

"I used to go to church every Sunday," he said, "But now I'm too old and Mother can't take me."

"Well," my brother thought, "I'm an abled-bodied young man, I can take him to church."

"Grandpa, do you want to go to church tomorrow?  I'll take you!" Jay said.

"Oh no, no," Grandpa said, "I'm too old.  I can't go to church anymore.  I'm too old."

Jay waited a few seconds, then he posed another question.

"Grandpa, do you want to go to McDonald's tomorrow?  I can take you."

"Oh yeah!" Grandpa said, "Let's go to McDonald's!!!"

Now, as can be expected, any good story of mine (well one I think is good anyhow–I've been known to misjudge), poor Sean has already heard dozens and dozens of times.  So it is understandable when he is less than enthused with my repetition.  However, his reaction to this particular tale seems to trump the others.

"I just know you are coming to the part where you say 'abled-body young man'" Sean once explained, "I know it's coming.  There's no escaping it.  You always say that!"

He's right!  I do always say that and actually, consciously so– that's the way my brother relayed the line to me.  

I'm just passing it on! 🙂

June 14, 2006 at 10:20 pm 6 comments


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