An excerpt from “Where Will All the Stories Go?” conversation between Laurens van der Post and one of the founding editors of Parabola Magazine, Pamela L. Travers that took place in 1982:
As a child in Australia, the stars seemed so close. I used to think I could hear them humming. I never told anyone, they would have laughed.
LAURENS VAN DER POST
But you do. You do hear them hum. “Listen,” my Bushmen would say, “they are hunting.” But to get back to the story of the woman with the basket; it carries an immense mythological charge. The man, after feeling somehow that something was being stolen from him, saw one night a group of beautiful girls coming down from the sky on a cord. Each carried a little tightly woven basket. And one of them he caught. “Yes,” she said, “I will live with you, on condition that you never look inside my basket without my permission.” He agreed, but, inevitably, he said “What the hell!” or the Stone Age equivalent of the phrase. And one day, when he was alone, he opened the basket, peeped inside and roared with laughter. “You have looked into the basket!” she accused him, when she returned. “Yes, you silly woman, why make such a secret of it when there is nothing in it? The basket’s empty.” “You saw nothing?” She gave him a tragic look, turned her back and disappeared into the sunset. And the Bushman who told me the story said to me, “it wasn’t the looking but the fact that he could not perceive in the basket all the wonders she had brought him from the stars.” And that, for me, in a sense, is one of the images that the story is to the human spirit. The basket brings us its star-stuff and the pundits–the intellectuals and the critics–look into it and say it’s all rubbish and superstition, and that there’s nothing in it.
Would you accept a carpetbag coming from the stars? I had never read your story, but when Mary Poppins arrived, the children looked into her carpetbag and, like your Bushman, found it empty. And yet out of it came all her mundane daily possessions, including a camp bed! Did all that come from the stars? We do not know. Emptiness is fullness.
From Parabola, “Dreams and Seeing,” Volume VII, Number 2.
Read the entire conversation here.