Category Archives: story

Wisdom Hiding in the Art

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
– William Shakespeare “As You Like It” 2:7

This is an historic quotation from one of the most prolific writers of our time. Scholars hold it up as a great metaphor. But what if it goes beyond a metaphor? What if Shakespeare knew something about the nature of reality and the only way he could disseminate this knowledge was through his plays. He certainly reached a lot more people writing plays that he ever would have preaching, or writing philosophical theories.

I think that it is possible that Shakespeare used his plays to draw people in so that he could entertain them and also tell them something about the world in which in we live. His use of low humour shows that he wanted to reach regular people. And he certainly did that. His plays are timeless and still read five hundred years after the fact.

The legendary rapper Krs-One has admitted to using the same kind of technique. He is known as “The teacher” in hip-hop. He has some great messages in his songs. And he certainly reaches a lot of people but he doesn’t do it by preaching. He uses rap to draw people in that wouldn’t otherwise even want to hear his message. In fact, his first album cover has him holding a gun and even it’s title Criminal Minded drew in a certain audience. Krs-One then used the power of words to tell the truth as he saw it. And people listened and took it in, whether they care to admit it or not. He remains a popular artist twenty years later as well.

Some people might think it disrespectful to be talking about these two brilliant minds in the same breath. I don’t think it is. They both used the popular form of entertainment for their day to get a message across. The messages may be hidden in their art and people may not choose to take anything away from them other than a good play or a good song, but it is still there.

I might be accused of reading too much into the quote above. People will say that it is simply a metaphor and nothing more. They will argue up and down that we can’t just be characters in a story. It sounds implausible and it raises tonnes of questions and objections. And while that may be true, it doesn’t rule out my theory that we are all characters in a story.

More Storied Thursdays to Come.

One Story

Some people believe that there is truly only one story. This story is told over and over again but it is essentially the same story all the time. Sure the settings and characters change. The details change enough that we can have an unlimited amount of stories based all on this one theme.

“The Quest.”

Robert McKee explains this in words better than I can. He writes, “For better or worse, an event throws a character’s life out of balance, arousing in him the conscious and/or unconscious desire for that which he feels will restore balance, launching him on a Quest for his object of Desire against forces of antagonism (inner, personal, extra-personal). This is story in a nutshell.”

There are many times in our lives when we are thrown off balance. As such, our life is a collection of stories. We tell stories of our travels, our triumphs, our heartaches, and our struggles. Our lives could be written out in one long narrative as well. So if our lives are essentially story and that there is really only one story. It brings me back to my thesis that story is the nature of reality.

We tend to think science can give us the answers to the ultimate question. But science will always fail us. Science theories are being thrown out and replaced daily. And what is a scientific theory but a story? It’s a great story and it offers us a lot of insight into the world. But once again, it does so through story. The theory of evolution is but a story after all.

Mathematics tries to give us answers about the nature of reality as well. But an equation is also basically a story. Mathematics can be beautiful and I admire a lot of what we have discovered about math. Yet, like science, there always seems to be more to discover.

Mathematicians and Scientists are always on a quest to learn more about the nature of the universe. As such, I think it is safe to assume that both of these disciplines are, in fact, story. There is one story and that story is everywhere. Story must then be the nature of reality.

More Storied Thursdays to come
(I know it’s a day late this week but that was because of Bloggers Unite Day)

In The Beginning There Was Story

According to the Gospel of John, in the beginning there was The Word and The Word was good.

What does John mean by “The Word?”

Some people have chosen to interpret The Word as just a metaphor for God. They equate The Word with God as if they are synonymous. I think John was trying to illustrate a truth here. Many of us seemed to have missed the point.

In the beginning there was the word or story. Story is the start of time. I believe that stories have been told long before human beings even learned how to talk. We have always told stories. The most primitive humans probably traced patterns into the sand to tell their stories. The probably used gesture and sound effects in their storytelling.

I believe that story transcends time. Any story ever written stands outside of time. We can open a book randomly to any page and start reading, and the action in that part of the story, is happening in the here and now. As we read it, it is happening. This is true for period pieces that take place in the past or science fiction that takes place in the future.

A few other authors have tried to explain this connection between story and our perception of time. Shakespeare wrote that the world is but a stage and that we are all actors who play our role. He goes on to tell his audience that we all play many roles in our lives. It is a beautiful metaphor. But taken a step further, it means that we are all characters in a large story. A story that includes everything and everytime.

These two authors are highly regarded in our time. The Bible and the collective works of Shakespeare are the two most widely read works in our time. The both touch on the importance of story. Both of these works have managed to transcend time as well. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think we need to read critically and see what these authors were trying to tell us.

In the beginning, there was story. Story is happening right now and it is always happening. Story is the nature of reality. Everything is story. A few writers have known this for years. We need to listen to them.

Check out the label on the sidebar to read all my posts on Story. And then surf over to Thoughtful Cacophony to read the excellent quotations I have collected about this topic from a wide variety of sources. Thanks for joining me on Storied Thursdays.

Why Should We Look at Story?

If I asked you what you did today, what would you say?

Think about it for a moment.

There are really only a handful of choices to keep the conversation going.

1) You could pick one event of your day and try to relate that experience in detail.
2) You could give a quick brief summary of your day
3) You could talk on and on about everything you did so far in your day.

But what would your answer sound like?

It would more than likely take the form of a narrative. This is pretty much inevitable. Your answer would involve setting (where you were earlier), character (who else was with you), and a problem of some sort (what happened and what lead up to it). These are the ingredients of story.

So your day, up until the point you were asked about it, is a story. They way you answer the question is also a story. And your buddy gets to take a story away with him in the process. He might even retell this story later with his own spin on it, “Did you hear that so and so…”

Humans think in terms of story. It is a simple as that. It is the way that our brain organizes information. Everything is pretty much storied in our brains. Stories help us make sense of our world. Everything is story. We can’t get away from it.

I believe that story is the one true thing that everyone shares. We all organize events and situations into stories. We all tell stories. We all consume stories by our choice of entertainment. We do this without exception.

As such, story should be studied in detail. We should try to figure out exactly what it is and why it is so prevalent in our lives. That is the purpose of this series on both of my blogs.

More Storied Thursdays to come.

What is Story?

A Myth is simply a story that tries to explain the way the world works. We behave in certain ways due to the myths that we support. Myths, in and of themselves, have nothing to do with religion. Myths transcend religion and affect each and everyone one of us, whether we have religious convictions or not.

The word myth is a very strong and powerful word. It means a lot. It is often a scary word to people who don’t truly understand what a myth is. As such, people have fought hard to devalue this word. This may not have been a conscious decision but it has happened. Myth is now equated with the word lie or untruth, which really does a disservice to us all. That is why I often don’t even use the word anymore. It has lost its meaning.

This is why I use the word story instead. Unfortunately, this word also can be equated with untruth but I don’t think the two have become synonymous in our culture just yet. You will often hear people ask if a story is true or if a movie is based on a true story. As such, we almost always believe that there is a true story.

Our legal system works at trying to get to the true story. A judge and jury listen to both sides of a story and then come up with what they believe to be the one true story. Of course, in court, there are often more than just two sides. The plaintiff and the defendant are often entrenched in their own specific and limited view of the situation but experts, and witnesses often bring up a myriad of other viewpoints and angles at which to look at the story.

In my exploration of the nature of reality, I believe that we need to look at a variety of writings and viewpoints. I feel like I can never fully research my thesis here but I think that I have made some great discoveries and have come upon some startling insights.

We use stories to make sense of our world on a daily basis. Everyone does, without exception. It was the one true and common thing that we all share in this world. And that alone makes it a topic worth our study and attention.

What is Reality?

What is Reality? It seems like such a simple question? But it is related to a myriad of other questions. What makes up reality? Are we here for a reason? Is there such thing as fate? Is there a grand design to the universe? Is there a supreme being that sees over everything? What composes the building blocks of everything that we see and do?

These are questions that humanity has struggled with since the beginning of time. (Did time even have a beginning?)

Religion has had a lot to say about these important questions and I think they provide us with some answers. Science also can provide us with some answers. But both of these disciplines fall short of the whole story. And that is the entire problem with religion and science.

I think that the humanities have a lot to say about the nature of reality. Poets and writers have given us some brilliant answers, but most of the time, these just get written off (sorry for the pun).

The interesting thing is that religion and science both offer good stories about the nature of reality. But if authors and poets are doing the same thing, then it isn’t that much of a stretch to say that everything seems to be story.

Joseph Gold writes about how each and every one of us uses story in our everyday lives.
“We are all storymakers. We use story to organize and control. . . . Human beings strive for order, control and peace but we can never be static. We must change, age, learn more, grow and adapt. So we are always in a cycle of creative struggle, changing and striving to manage our changing and to integrate what we learn into our own story. If during our growing up, for instance, we have suffered trauma . . .To escape the feeling of helplessness and confusion that we carry with us we need to organize, package, index our experience, do what we mean when we say “get a handle on it,” so that we can carry the baggage of our experience comfortably and not have bits and pieces falling all over the place. This is what we do when we “story” it.” (taken from Read For Your Life: Literature as a Life Support System. Fitzhenry and Whiteside: Markham, 1990. pg 51-52)

Story is everywhere. And if we believe Marshall McLuhan when he says, “the medium is the message,” then I think it is safe to say that the medium is story and therefore the message must also be story. To put it simply, story is the nature of reality.

More to come – Storied Thursdays are now a feature on both Silent Cacophony and Thoughtful Cacophony.

Everything is Story

If someone were to give me a test of my life, I think I would fail it. I can’t remember a lot of things that I probably should be able to. I’m often surprised when family members recall an event. I have to get them to explain in further. Sometimes this helps and I remember it, sometime I only get a vague impression of the event, and sometimes it doesn’t help at all. I don’t remember it.

I have studied psychology and have done some research about how the brain works. I know scientific terms and processes. I have seen diagrams of the brain but it doesn’t clear anything up for me. I don’t think we will ever know how the brain truly works.

I often wonder why I have thousands and thousands of songs in my head. I love music and have over 800 CDs, countless tapes, and hundreds of records in my collection. I used to tape albums and radio shows. There was a time in my life when I would buy an album or two every week. Music was everything to me then.

But why do these songs, and new ones I like, stay in my head. What makes them more important in my memory than everyday events? I think that it might be because they are intricately tied to many other things in my life.

I could tell the story of how I got interested in music. It’s a good story too. In fact, every album in my collection has a story to it. I don’t just mean the lyrics, song order, and album title. How I found each album or discovered each artist has its own story. I’m sure that the musicians have a story behind the creation of the albums as well.

One thing that I think everyone can understand in story. Everyone knows what a story is. We listen to them and tell them every single day. TV, movies, video games, conversations; they are all stories. Everything is story.

If everything is story perhaps studying story will help us to come to the ultimate answers for which everyone seeks. Science has tried to come up some answers, as have the arts and religion. So far, not one discipline has all the answers. One thing all three of these disciplines have in common however, is story.

Everything is story, and I will attempt to prove this with examples from science, religion, and the humanities. This new series on Silent Cacophony is long overdue. This theory has been with me for years, it is now time to explore it. I hope you will join me on this journey.

Commonplace Book # 12

“Luria thought a science of this kind would be best introduced by a story – a detailed case-history.” – Sacks, Oliver. The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales. Summit: New York, 1985. pg 5

I always thought that the humanities had a lot to say about the nature of reality. I have always been an admirer of good stories. I love literature. I loved studying books in class and writing essays. I don’t know a lot of people who actually like writing essays in university but I loved it. It was actually a bit of a loss when I no longer had to write them. I found that I missed it.

Analyzing stories was something that I had done for almost my entire school career. But now that I had my degree, I no longer needed to do this. It didn’t seem to sit right with me. That was when I realized that story is everywhere. It isn’t just in books. Everything tells a story, even science. This quotation helped me to finally understand what science is, and it started my collection of story quotables. There will be a lot more to follow.

Fiction That Tells the Truth

A lot of my commonplace book quotations have come from works of fiction. When I read, I keep a pen close by my side. If I come across a passage that speaks to me, I write the page number down and the first few words. I then get back to my reading. Once I have finished a book, I comb through it and add the passages to my commonplace book. I have found that this doesn’t distract me from my reading at all.

I am currently reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am just past the halfway mark now and I must say that it is a great read.

I found a passage this weekend that ties in to my entry yesterday. In it, a mother is giving advice to her child on becoming a mother. She tells her to let the child believe in angels, fairies and Santa Claus and her daughter objects.

“I know there is no Santa Claus.”

“Yet you must teach the child that these things are so.”

“Why? When I, myself, do not believe?”

“Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”

“The child will grow up and find out things for herself. She will know that I lied. She will be disappointed.”

“That is what is called learning the truth. It is a good thing to learn the truth one’s self.”

This passage was inspiring to me. It is a few pages long and I have only included the middle portion of this exchange between mother and daughter. I like how the wise mother has learned the importance of story and is able to communicate this so clearly to her daughter. It is also striking because Mary is illiterate. She has learned things from living and wishes to pass them on to her daughter and granddaughter.

This passage is now number 282 in my commonplace book but I couldn’t wait that long to share it with you. It’s food for thought. Enjoy!

Reclaim Myth

I find it a bit frustrating that in popular culture and society that the word “myth” has become synonymous with the word “lie” or “falsehood.” I think we have all forgotten the power and truth of myth. We need myth in our lives. It is as essential as oxygen.

So let’s debunk this definition of myth. A Myth is a traditional story that attempts to illustrate the worldview of a particular people, or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.

I think that when measured against science and reason, we have come to believe that many cultural myths are not scientific or logical. However, the details and scientific facts of the story might not be pivotal as we wish them to be. The story might be the most important aspect of myth and we have overlooked it for quite some time now.

Marshal McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message.” He believed that the content of any message was not as important as the way it was delivered. He was originally talking about radio, television, and print. Although, I think each of these mediums all share one common element. Story telling. If I were to take this one step further, I could paraphrase his saying a bit and say that the story is the message.

I think many of the problems faced in society today are a result of or distrust and disbelief in story. We all frame our lives in story. We build narratives of our experiences every day, even if we never write anything. You hear it in the way people speak. We are story-driven creatures. And yet we seem to shake off important stories that try to explain hidden truths and deep meaning. Why do we do this?

Myth as a word has been stolen from us now. It has been turned into a bad word. Yet we all consume storytelling every day. We tell stories, we read stories, and we watch stories on television and in the cinema. We believe in characters and series and hold heated discussions about them.

If the medium truly is the message than I think we might be missing the story behind the story. And just because a story isn’t logical or “true” doesn’t negate the fact that it can hold certain truths. All stories do.

So stop using the word “myth” when you mean to say commonly-held-false-belief. And don’t be so quick to throw those words around either. It’s time to reclaim “myth.”