Modern humans, perhaps more than at any other time in human history, are caught up in a web of entangled narratives. . . . We wage culture wars within and between our civilizations based on these narratives, which for the most part we do not even recognize as stories.You. Yes, YOU. How did you let it happen? How does an innocent Story of Everything, a good kid, turn into a bully? What made you pick up that flag and start waving it around? Did you want everyone to die for you? Did you want them to kill for you?
--William Grassie, "The Storied Nature of Self, Society, and Cosmos"
You know what I'm talking about. The story of the Palestinians vs. the story of the Israelis. The story of Islamic militants vs. the stories of the West. Remember the Inquisition? Nothing but killing for a story. In the U.S. the fighting's over creation, evolution, and intelligent design. It's "only" cultural war. But there's still a lot of blood being spilled, cultural or otherwise.
I know stories matter. I know that structures for narrative are embedded deep in our human brains, as deep as structures for language, as deep as controls for breathing. But why do we have to kill in order to speak our story, as if it competed for air with someone else's? Isn't there enough air for everyone?
Maybe it's hubris. Maybe the violence starts when stories grow tall, add muscle, start to picture empires. When they become Stories, capital S. You know better than most. Does the killing begin with . . .
. . . the Christian narrative, the Militant Islamic Resurgence narrative, the American Experiment narrative, the Capitalist Prosperity narrative, the Progressive Socialism narrative, the Scientific Enlightenment narrative, the Expressive Romantic narrative, the Unity with Brahman narrative, the Liberal Progress narrative, the Ubiquitous Egoism narrative, and the Chance and Purposeless Narrative.These are "meta-narratives," say scholars, Master Stories. Click here for more on that. Or here, for the source of the list above. Meta-narratives prefer the shadow world. As William Grassie says, they exist as "unarticulated background, the taken-for-granted truth, the way things really are." They lie so deeply in our psyches that we do not even realize they are stories.
YOU, sir (and you've mostly been a sir), are a Meta-Meta-Narrative, a Master Master Story. You cover everything--the whole cosmos, the whole earth, the whole human race. You speak of origins and destiny. You create moral imperative. You enter sacred texts and there you become the Word of God. And that's when things get dicey.
You know by now you're not alone. You know about all those other Stories, all with the name of Everything, all entangled by global communication. I understand: discovering them has been a blow to hubris. But you'll survive. So will they. There's air enough for everyone.
So here's a suggestion for you and your kind. Drop the flags, come out of the shadows, and get back to being stories. You know, just stories. Get to know each other. If you've made it to a sacred place, remember that you got there as a story, not a creed. So why not be what God created you to be? Why not act like a story? Why not speak like a story? Do you even remember how?
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COPYRIGHT (C) 2008 JOHN N. KOTRE