The trouble with stories

Posted 11.2.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | This is not about turning the profession of journalism into story-telling. Nor is it about the stories we continually tell ourselves to explain our actions, urges, mistakes, and achievements. No, this is about surrounding ourselves with stories, drowning in them - - and shouldn't that be a concern for us, coping with an evolving world?

Surrounding ourselves - - bathing every moment and every action we take - - in stories does include that oxidation of journalism and includes our proclivity for story-fying everything we do, see, and hear. Where's the problem?

The problem with story-telling is its loss of objectivity - - I mean in the sense of testability or verification. Story-tellers may insist there is no "real" objectivity, that everything is relative and conditioned by everything else (the "butterfly effect"). Certainly. But my appeal to you is that we avoid flooding our admittedly-meagre capacities for objectivity.

Our lives may be filled with the relative and the conditional, but is that reason to throw up our hands (or our brains)? If anything, given this, shouldn't we try all the harder to hang on to the few hand-grips we have on this life-flow of inter-connected motives, actions and ambitions?

It is possible. Testing, verifying, replicating, and careful examination and record-keeping - - the scientific method - - gives us the firmest footing in terms of where to step next or which life-decisions come next. The image here is walking in the dark with a flashlight, or not.

Darkness is everywhere, but that hardly means we shouldn't use whatever flashlight we have. Any light is at least a light, and who is willing to trust only to good guesses or luck, intuition or faith, to guide us along our daily paths in the dark.

The light we do have in this sense of creating our own lives, as we live them, is the "scientific method", or something like it. And that means less story-telling, not more. It means testing and remembering what worked in the past, and who does that to stories?

By stories, I mean something like television's story-telling - - all the dramas and adventures, portraits and psychological thrillers, all the soap opera. That's every story. All the stories about working out our emotions and the messes they so often generate. Stories are based on emotion; they grab our attention via emotional hooks; we follow along with the emotional effects, everyone's ups and downs and responses for choices and decisions.

TV is a metaphor. Does all this bathing in emotional response to the world prepare us of anything? All of life becomes nothing but one emotional experience after the next - - in that head-space -- and how do we prepare for that?

Which means we're unprepared for most events, most of the time.

Although emotion-bathing may be rewarding in the moment, or just warm-and-fuzzy, story-telling and stories do not prepare us for better decision-making, for finding a clear view of what surrounds us. With stories, aren't we just stuck? Targets, if you like?


Copyright © 2017 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.17