By Mark Traphagen on July 26, 2010
“A parable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human characters. It is a type of analogy.” (from Wikipedia)
When those of us from a Christian background hear the word “parable,” we almost invariably think first (or exclusively) of the parables of Jesus, such as “The Good Samaritan” or “The Prodigal Son.” What most of us probably don’t realize is that teaching via parables was not something Jesus originated. Rather, he was working from a well-established tradition of teaching through story.
In our day we are seeing a renaissance of not only the art of storytelling in general, but also the storyteller as teacher, preacher, and prophet.
Among the best practitioners of this skill is playwright, humorist, author, and raconteur, Dylan Brody. His stories bring you to tears and then make you chuckle. But they almost always make you think, and come to understand your own humanity a little better.
Here are some examples of my favorite parables of Dylan Brody.
Hats Off to Tradition. Though raised in a very secularized Jewish household (his father used to intone “Abracadabra alacazam; we light the candles; we don’t eat ham” over the Channukkah lights), young Dylan didn’t have much connection with the world of faith. To please his religious grandfather he begins wearing a hat (in lieu of a yarmulke). The hat leads him to an encounter with the unfairness of the world, but ultimately an encounter with light.
An Ancient Zen Parable That I Wrote a Few Years Ago. After experiencing a painful rejection, our hero learns that just because you suffer, it doesn’t mean the universe is against you.
True Romance (Video). In a short one-man play set to music, Dylan faces a moment of imagined temptation with a beautiful young checkout girl. In the end, he chooses True Romance.
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Shameless Self-Promotion Department: I invite you to check out my own storytelling–inspired by the likes of Dylan Brody, Jean Shepherd, and Benjamen Walker. Check out the League of Inveterate Poets Podcast.