Wakey Wakey.
reveille precedes revelation

Sources, part 2

Sorry for the cyberlull, folks. At least it’s been a lull in official posts. I’ve been enjoying reading your comments (on the last post and others), and reading your blogs (the ones I know about). Hooray for the folks on the blogroll!

<tangent> Yeah, so right now the blogroll is somewhat ideologically slanted. Not homogenous, but slanted. My basic policy (subject to my ever-changing whims, of course) is that if I know you (in the sense that, at least we talk in cyberspace occasionally) and your blog isn’t linking porn all over the place, you can be on the blogroll. So if you’re coming from a tradition or system that’s different than mine and you have a blog, jump in the conversation and hook me up with some linkage. </tangent>

OK, so we had a fun little chitchat in real life at Gray’s a few weeks back too. I kicked things off with the musings from the original Sources post and asked the same question:

What books have you read that have changed your life? What did the book make you think/do/feel/imagine in a new way? Are there any books that you re-read over and over again? What brings you back to those books? Re-watchable movies were thrown in there as an option for discussion, too.

It was very interesting to see what you all came up with. Many cool sounding books and movies I now need to read were brought up, which might be a good reason for me to question the wisdom of asking that particular question. Now my already endless list of books to read and movies to see is a little longer. And a play I need to see, too! Ah, the difficulties of a short life in a world full of endless human creativity.

Very interestingly: Most of the books that came up in discussion, whether at Gray’s or online–the books that really grab us and make us want to read them over and over again are stories. Not philosophical treatises or self help books or tomes of theology or even poetry–it’s stories that, across the board, make a difference in people’s lives. Some movies can be compelling on the same level as great books because they’re stories too. I’m not knocking the other genres of literature. Every genre I mentioned above, even if I’m not that committed to some of them in daily life (too lazy to read real philosophy at the moment, hopefully that will change again someday), has played a big role in shaping who I am. But stories are much more immediate, and based on discussions we’ve had, it seems like their impact is often broader and deeper. Why is this?

You can argue with me by bringing up notable exceptions, but the point of this post isn’t really to argue one form of literature over another. Is sci fi “better” than science? Romance stories “better” than 51 ways to impress your date? I don’t really care–it depends on what you’re going for. The point is–stories are powerful for us human creatures. Even the more didactic, philosophical/self-help-ish books that came up in conversation introduced a change in the way a person narrated his or her life story.

In fact, I would propose that every book we read, movie we see, or new idea we encounter that changes us in some way–or has the potential to change us–presents an alternate way to tell our story. We are story-telling creatures. If we are depressed, it’s because something about the way we are telling our story is making us believe we are part of a tragedy. If we’re happy, it’s because something about the way we are telling our story is making us believe the trajectory of our life is moving in a positive direction. Usually life change stories start take a form something like this: “Once upon a time, x was bad because I thought y. Then a happened and I realized that y was a bunch of garbage and actually b, so I started doing c and now d.” Whether you buy into Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm that interprets all communication as story or not, we humans are storytelling animals. Stories speak to us and stories can change us.

At Gray’s, the life-changing books/movies I brought up are also stories. I mentioned (and, not surprisingly, talked too long about) the original Matrix, the Lord of the Rings, and the Bible. The former two have images of both good and evil that, to me, powerfully illustrate the world I live in (man, that’s too simplistic–they also have vivid characters and images of other realities that illustrate the world I live in too–power, conflict, pain, joy; the list goes on). The latter does that too–and provides a larger world-story that I see myself a part of. In all three cases, part of the power of the stories in these works is that they help correct my own perception of my own story. The stories I typically tell myself usually have to do with my ego (“If I don’t get to work someone will find out I’m a slacker”), my hormones, or something else similarly self-driven. The stories that work like these remind me that I’m not the center of the universe, but also that I’m a significant part of a much bigger story. For me, believing the Bible is true moves these ennobling narratives beyond the realm of wishful thinking. This is the kind of personal-story-shifting that outside-of-ourselves stories do. It can happen for big things (see this paragraph) or little things.

To be changed and grow, though, we have to be open to these alternate stories and ways of viewing the world. We tend to be hostile to stories that differ from ours. This brings me to a point that kamonroe very insightfully brought up here: To (perhaps unfairly) paraphrase him for my purposes, the impact a work of art or a new idea can have on your life is directly proportional to the amount of love you bring to your interpretation of the work. From where I sit, I wish more Christians, including myself, would bring more love to the table when they try to understand worldviews and positions other than there own. This doesn’t mean people should embrace everything or never disagree. I just wish they would dig deeper to find out what the other person’s goals are and battles are. I wish they’d look past the traditional soundbyte defenses that they got in Sunday School against opposing views, and seek to discover the real reasons these differing beliefs are held. Sometimes I do see a lot of good examples of loving dialogue from my Christian brothers and sisters. I wish I’d see more. It works both ways too, though. The problem isn’t linked to a particular group of people.

So now that my wordy thoughts are finally over, how about we put that last little plea into practice, shall we? Topic for discussion:

Given some of the ways you tell your personal story now, is it possible for your story to have a happy ending? What would that happy ending look like? Explain.

Example of a way an answer could go: I think that, based on the way I’m living my life right now and my worldview, a happy “resolution” to my life’s quest would be if “x” happened on a regular basis. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but if I’m honest, it scares me to think that x might never happen. I suppose if x does happen, I don’t know what my next life quest would be, but right now, I’m focusing on x. This is because y. Etc.

That’s an option, anyway, in case my question without an example was too vague or open ended. I’m not filling in x and y at the moment because I think I’ve already done more than my fair share of the talking. It’s your turn.

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