Saturday, August 31, 2013

The need to tell stories, to create narratives, grows from the weird essence of the human condition


Endings That Hover
by Nelly Reifler
The need to tell stories, to create narratives, grows from the weird essence of the human condition: we are conscious, and inextricable from consciousness is the awareness that we are going to die. This knowledge makes simply living kind of a crazy act. Plus, life is chaotic, and most of what happens during our short time alive just happens to us. Most of what happens occurs by chance or through the will of some outside entity; occasionally we are able to exert power, but usually with compromise and adjustment. So we narrate our lives as we live them, making sense of the chaos by organizing our experiences. Forming our lives into plot, we can pick out certain patterns and see some cause and effect. We learn to navigate the chaos, sometimes, little by little. We believe we are moving forward.
There are seven billion of us walking around with our stories unfolding inside our heads. We have an unspoken -- generally unconscious -- understanding of this fact. We tend to cluster within cultures where our narratives take similar forms. There is, though, still the problem of language. Much of the frustration of being human arises from the different experiences we have of words and their meanings, even when we speak the same tongue.
The Aphorist in My Study
by Aaron Hirsh
Aphorist in my Study
A crabby and often cryptic writing coach occasionally stations himself in the back corner of my study. Inexplicably, he is a Greek -- an old Greek, as in, hoary of mane and leathern of skin, as well as an ancient Greek, as in, toga-clad and Socratic in aspect. In fact, he may be none other than Diogenes himself, but I can't be sure, as he never talks about himself and, unlike the original, this fellow writes nothing that later gets carved in stelae -- though, come to think of it, he does talk with the irritated terseness of one obliged to chisel his own words in stone.

Over the years, whenever he has intruded upon me, I have, unbeknownst to him, switched over to a separate file on my computer and transcribed his remarks. They are numbered, these comments of his, because this is how he alerts me that he's standing back there between the lamp and the bookshelf: He just declares a number. Interestingly, the numbers have not all arisen in order. Rather, he seems to be citing a pre-existing list, the arrangement of which is pedagogically reasonable but not exactly equivalent to the order in which I personally have needed his oracular utterances. Somehow, from the way he declares the numbers, I can tell they're Roman numerals; if I knew Ionian numerals, he'd use those, but I don't, so he settles for the next best thing.

Read on...

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