"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

22 August 2014

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Recognise those lines above? They appear over and over on blogs, websites, inspirational literature and speeches. You may have used them yourself. I have. And I, like many others, attribute them to Germany's "Shakespeare", Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The trouble is, they're not by Goethe at all, but rather contrived by a Scottish mountaineer and writer, William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996).

Cover of Murray's
posthumous autobiography
I say "contrived" because Murray himself suggests that they were by Goethe, at least, he recalls them as a couplet from something Goethe wrote. But according to research carried out by the Goethe Society of North America in the late 90s, Goethe never wrote such words. There is no German source for them.

According to this research, Murray attributed this quote to Goethe in his 1951 book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (J.M. Dent & Sons, London). In it, Murray recounts leading the Scottish mountaineering team on their first expedition to the Kumaon range in the Himalayas the year before when they succeeded in climbing five of the nine peaks attempted. According to Wikipedia (I admit, not always a reliable source itself), near the beginning of his book, Murray writes:
... but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!
While Goethe would no doubt have echoed Murray's sentiments (he comes close in Faust), the German writer did not write these particular words attributed to him. So who did? That's still an open question. It has been suggested that Murray mis-remembered them from a early 19th-century 'loose' translation of Goethe's work by John Anster but this is not conclusive.

Until such time, perhaps we can attribute them to the Scottish mountaineer who climbed to great heights in the Himalayas. At least you can point to a printed source although it will cost you a small fortune to obtain a copy of your own. It's been reported that Murray's book is out of print and commands prices in excess of £100 from antique book sellers.

But the point is, sources are important. Until we can identify a source, we can't honestly attribute words to anyone without misleading the reader or listener. That's why I urge storytellers to acknowledge the source of their story -- where did you find the story or from whom did you hear it? It's just common courtesy to recognise those upon whose shoulders we stand. I think even Mr Murray would have appreciated that.

Learn more about W.H. Murray and Scottish mountaineering at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._H._Murray and http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/m/whmurray.html

07 August 2014

Teller and the Tale with guest storyteller Elly Crichton Stuart

Elly Crichton Stuart
This week on The Teller and the Tale, I catch up with Scottish storyteller Elly Crichton Stuart to talk about her life as a storyteller and to hear her share one of her favourite stories.

Elly is a mindfulness practitioner who is passionate about storytelling, performance and poetry as tools for transformation. Working with heart, humour and creativity, Elly aspires to lead people on a journey towards wholeness.

Elly trained at Arts Educational Drama School and worked as a performer and workshop leader for many years.

In 2003 she left The Unicorn Theatre for Children, where she had worked for 6 years, to go to The School of Storytelling at Emerson College. In 2006 she returned to Essex University (M.A in Art History 1980) to study The Tale with Marina Warner.

Elly has toured the UK as a performer since 1987 and worked all over the world as a storyteller since 2004. She is currently training adults and young people in Scotland as storytellers, and running self-development workshops for adults on Nourishing ourselves through the senses and story, and Storytelling for forgiveness. (More about Elly at www.ellystoryteller.com)

Listen to Elly on The Teller and the Tale only on Blues and Roots Radio (www.bluesandrootsradio.com) at the following times:

Sunday 10 August at 7am EST (Canada/US) and 12 noon BST (UK/Ireland)

Tuesday 12 August at 8pm EST (Canada/US) and 1am BST (UK/Ireland)

Thursday 14 August at 4pm EST (Canada/US) and 9pm BST (UK/Ireland)

Go to www.bluesandrootsradio.com and click on the "Listen Live" button.

More about the Teller and the Tale at www.thetellerandthetale.com and at www.facebook.com/thetellerandthetale.


"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

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