Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Story Trumps Your Story Part 2

When the Plot Needs a Re-Write

It is the process of writing and life that matters. We are trying to become sane along with our poems and stories. Natalie Goldberg

With the advent of the global village, a phrase coined by Marshal McLuhan, we are discovering that we can no longer be mute to the varied stories in our world that conflict or strongly attack our own accounts. The proximity of the web and the day to day barrage of pictures and sound from the media have forced their way into our minds and there is no turning back. The phrase "what you don’t know can hurt you" could also have added "but what you do know can hurt you more." The daily litany of horrors and banality cling to our souls like existential Velcro and even mindless entertainment only dulls the chatter for a brief period of time. We are now to close to the sounds of “the other” to ignore his or her voice and chronicle of life. I cannot afford to have a story that excludes others.

For many, this entourage of reports from the edges of the world is used to quicken deeply held beliefs that these people may indeed deserve these atrocities. Tribalism is alive and well and even white collars will not remove the war paint hidden in the heart. If we live in a global village, is it possible the resources are limited and if so how far must I go to protect mine? When does all the information cease to inform and now only confuses or reinforces the exclusion of "the other"?

Part of the challenge of competing stories is the need for points of reference. When and where do we come together and agree? When and where do we disagree and what does that look like? It is highly threatening to discover that others not only disagree with our story but have thought deeply about the same issues and have come up with an entirely different set of cosmic answers. Without a dialogue with "the other" we are prone to demonize the person because their story represents what is wrong with the world. Their story challenges our moral and spiritual values as well as our understanding of how government and society should be lived out. It can also be something as silly amd banal as commentaries on music and films we love or hate. How dare these people assess our world and find it lacking? How presumptuous for someone to call me a bigot, a radical, or left wing or a right wing extremist and not even talk to me before I am named. Now, with Muslim fundamentalsim we have the pathological condemnations of “the other” who desires to see our very presence wiped off the face of the earth. These ideologies and sentiments are varied and nuanced in their degree of impact on us but they deeply impact our own sense of continuity and meaning. In the end we find ourselves asking, "Why can’t everyone leave my story alone? "

Ironically this barrage of differing narratives now begins to erode our own personal sense of confidence in our way of seeing the world. The attacks or even occasional engagements with those that differ now begin to make us wonder. Could I be wrong? Are my long held beliefs and sacred stories really as silly and lifeless as these people rage? These moments of self reflective doubt are seldom if ever repeated inside or outside our heads and hearts for they represent the beginning of truly looking at our own story. These questions will surely open pandora's box.

As the shear amount of grand narratvies cascade over each other via the web and media, it becomes clearer and clearer how muddy our hearts and minds have become when it involves an over arching story. We, and I speak as if I am talking for humankind right now (a lofty almost silly assertion), have outgrown our older stories and in our looking for new ones have yet to find any worth saving to our favorite sites if you will. We are a world in search of a new way of seeing and naming ourselves.

Because all encompassing overarching stories (meta narratives) are not in vogue in academia or artistic circles, the tendency has been to go deeper into the story of self. Let’s peel away the skin of the onion and see just what resides at its core. This process seems to have yielded little as the onion appears to merely be an onion. We were in hopes this search for the self would uncover the long ago forgotten code that realized the power to reign in the universe and hold the malaise at bay. But on the contrary, our search for the “core” of self has only revealed how unable an individual is to assess his or her own experience let alone offer up the deep answers to life’s ongoing conundrums.

The story of self, as meaningful and as necessary as it appears to humankind's understanding of being human, has built in limitations in its ability to form a larger narrative. In fact, the very idea of "the self" has arrived on the scene fairly late in the history of intellectual history. The self is a self. It cannot and will not see outside its borders unless it collaborates with other stories. Left to its own narrative devices, the self becomes grandiose and absorbed. Sequestered in the machinations of the unquestioned mind, the self dreams of glory and dishonor simultaneously and offers up the glory of transcendence on one hand while robbing the other of his or her glory on the other hand. This is paradoxical. We have created a way of seeing and naming that have penned a story which is now inhabitable. Many appear to be storyless and yet fulll of self.

To write our story we must have degree of narrative input from our own personal narrative (i.e the self). However, we are in times where the exalted account of the isolated self is not only limited and flat but dangerous and unreflective. The world can no longer sustain itself on the accumulation of self absorbed hearsay of the glorified ego. This world cannot be about each individual getting what they want or even deserve. Sounds good on Oprah, but in truth, my search for fulfillment may indeed rob you of your search for actualization. We have been offered a path of fulfillment that is proving to be the very road to destruction we have feared. We are following each other into the abyss of self fulfillment and development. We need a bigger story. We need one that invites all to the table to share their part of the ever changing all inclusive story. This is challenging. Stories written in collaboration are full or re-writes, long conversations about the meaning of words and the intentions of the heart. This will take time. We must take the time.
We must begin to write these stories together. As Christians we may just have inherited through the incarnation a unique posture for engaging the storytelling challenge. God must have known we would want our re-writes.

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