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venerdì, dicembre 27, 2013

Robert Bela Wilhelm, story-teller: "Let's give importance to small things and let's feed our interior wolf"

A special traveler in the classroom of the world

Mr. Bela Wilhelm 

it's a great pleasure to talk to you about story-telling and in general your life. Where were you born Mr. Wilhelm?

I was born in New York City in 1943 of immigrant parents. My father was born in Hungary and my mother in Slovakia.

May you tell us something about your childhood and your family?

My Slovak mother and Hungarian grandmother were my storytellers. I
heard stories of "La Nona Strega" -- called "Bozorka" in Slovak. My
mother came from a small village in Slovakia where here grandfather,
Pietro Noris, settle in the 19th Century. He was a craftsman from a
small village near Bergamo, Italy who worked for the Count, Graf Palffy, in the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

Where did you study?

Many places from Catholic elementary schools with the Franciscan sisters and priests in New York City to doctoral studies in Berkeley, California and Cambridge University in England. I studied religious art, anthropology, and folklore.

Did you travel a lot during your young age?

Every summer my parents took me on a "historical tour" to some place in
America. I learned history and legends at these places. As immigrants, it was my parents' way of teaching their children about America.

The place you love the most?

Two places: the Big Island of Hawaii and Umbria. I laugh at myself -- both are places of "Terremoto". But they share something selse. Both
places know the important of what the Hawaiians call "ohana" -- family.

What means exactly exactly to being a story-teller?

Many opportunities to tell stories in a variety of settings: teachers, parents, grandparents, tour guides, novelists, journalists, video and
cinema, to name a few. Everybody loves a good story. There is plenty of opportunity to tell stories in many artistic forms.

What impact can a story-teller have in our society?
Storytellers remind us we have a past and a future. We are far greater
than the personal situations we find ourselves in today. Everyone has a
unique life journey. We need to share our story-telling and
story-listening with others to create community in an impersonal world.

Do you think we have lost a bit of values in our society?

Only when we forget our personal and communal stories and become
passive consumers of mass culture. In America we call them the "Three M's" -- Media, (shopping) Malls, and McDonald's.

And in which way we can re-discover them?

Slow down, Jobs, careers, and success are not as enjoyable as
children, friends, food, and festivals!

Can  exist a way of life naturally rich of wisdom and small things? And
if your answer is affirmative, which is the best way of living life for you?

Three simple rules that most people don't want to hear: (1) Get rid of the television in your home, (2) read more books, (3) talk with people from many parts of society -- listen attentively to them and appreciate their lives --while sharing your own story with them.

You founded Storyfest many years ago. ..

I was a university professor, talking only about matters of the "head",
the mind. I wanted to talk about matters of the imagination and the
"heart". So I stopped lecturing in the university and left the
classroom. Now I tell and listen to stories, and travel in the bigger "classroom" of the world.

When did you visit the first time Gubbio?

In 1987 with two American friends. I particularly liked the story of
your patron, San Ubaldo, and always visit his church atop the mountain.
I have also written a short story about Ubaldo. Someday I hope to visit Gubbio during Ubaldo's feastday.

Do you visit our city often? Why?

Every year if possible. I bring a Storyfest Tour to Umbria to enjoy the storytelling from the legends of  San Francesco and also Italian
folklore. Italo Calvino's collection of Italian folktales is one of my
favorite books. I tell many Italian folktales -- but, of course, in English. Capisco un po Italiano, mas, purtroppo, parlo sua bella
lingua troppo male. (Now you see how bad my Italian is!)

You have written a story about S. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio. May
you tell us much more about this story, and why this  legend at first was so impressive to you? What message were you transmitting to people when you wrote it?

It is my favorite story of St. Francis. I learned it many years ago
from a Sicilian woman in New York City. It is not the usual story
found in the Fioretti, but a tale in which the Wolf is the shadow side
of our own personalities. We need to accept that dark side of
ourselves, not deny it or try to "starve" it. We need to "feed our wolf" so it will not devour us. It is a story of reconciliation and compassionate love for ourselves, neighbors, and strangers.

Do you think your wife played an important role in your life and in
your project of life?

Yes, she is Irish-American and her people have a very fine storytelling
tradition. We usually lead our Storyfest Journeys together, usually
for groups of 15 to 20 people to Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and
parts of the United States. She tells many tales of women. She is also a writer.

Have you got any children?

We lost our three children to a rare genetic disease in childhood.
So now, anyone who listens to our stories becomes our child because
we tell stories to the child-within. We also have twenty nieces and
nephews and godchildren, some of them still young. So, we are
"Zio Roberto" and "Zia Maria" to them. We always have stories for them when we visit them, or when they come to our home.

Your favorite books?

Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings,", I Fioretti di San Francesco, Italo
Calvino's Italian folktales, the short stories of the Russian Leo
Tolstoy, the poems of the Welshman, Henry Vaughan, and the old Icelandic Sagas.



Anna Maria Polidori

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