Friday, March 1, 2013

get your story straight

Let push come to shove and I guess I have to count myself in the camp of those who describe the cascading imperatives of human life as "food, shelter, sex ... and stories." The word "imperatives" is a bit much ... maybe "characteristics" is better, more down-to-earth ... nothing to write home about.

Food, shelter, sex...
And stories...
In the same tone of voice anyone might bring to a statement like, "the car has four tires" or "water is wet."

Stories help to make sense of -- as if ratifying -- the world and its adventures. In one sense, they are sensible and warming. They provide a way to delight in or despair of ... everything. They can be vast and compelling or small and inconsequential. On the one hand, the Library of Congress is full of stories. On the other hand, to speak a single word is to light the fuse of yet another story. As a bee by its nature buzzes, so the stories rise up like the fat in a simmering pot of home-made chicken soup. It's not as if improvement were necessary.

Extracts from an Internet definition of "story" include:
-- Stories can be imaginary, traditional, or true
-- An excuse or a reason that is not true
So stories seem to partake of or beg for some "truth" and as a personal matter, I think this is important.

As useful as stories are, it has to be conceded that they stand at one remove from whatever the story is about. A "true story" is an oxymoron: "Love" is not love; "freedom" is not freedom; "the gunfight at the OK Corral" is not the gunfight at the OK Corral; and "chocolate" sure as hell isn't chocolate.

Stories may be visceral and deeply personal, but they stand at one remove from the truth. This distance can be very useful, but it can also be confusing: I don't stand at one remove from my life any more than you do from yours. Despite this, the stories seem to pile up higher and higher, as if I were some great depository like the Library of Congress. And it is here that uncertainty and discomfort can creep in...

Story-telling may be a characteristic of the human warp and weft, but do they tell the whole story? Do they tell something akin to the "truth?" I don't pose this as some snooty philosophical or religious question... something begging for an improvement, scrambling for some tasseled meaning or belief. I pose the question as something personal -- a perfectly-OK characteristic that nonetheless inserts discomfort or dis-ease.

So what's the story? What's the truth that no longer stands at one remove from the story that stands at one remove?

Any "answer" could hardly be a truthful answer, but I do think it's worth the price of admission ....

Get your story straight!

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