story and biology

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

I had a great time at Narratives. Good food, good talk, good friends. And we’ll be missing one of our members as she moves on to other hopefully fulfilling enterprises. We had a discussion in the midst of which I had to leave about publishing issues. Aside from the process, the subject got me to thinking about basics, storytelling at the biological level, although biology might be a little breathtaking.

The question goes to need. Humans are animals who need the company of others; they need friends, talk, sharing, conflict, some measure of society. Story meets many of those needs. A story develops during the card game, a thread that makes the time mean something, good, bad, in the middle. We need the narrative to get the punch-line, the story. We need to experience stories because without them the world wouldn’t make a lot of sense. “What happened” is a basic question that goes to making sense of events. From explanation to analysis to description to demonstration–all can or may manifest as story narrative. But kinds of story (narrative poems, ballads, flash fiction) really aren’t what I’m hinting at here. The telling is what matters: the form is the way we experience.

Some people I know love telling and writing stories. I have a good friend who tells “true” stories about his life that run the range of human experience and story forms. Nobody asked him tell them, although he was often encouraged. “Tell him about the time that . . . ” one friend says to another, and then the listeners listen, laugh, or react with a shake of the head at the the sad end of the protagonist. Circumstance dictates.

“Hey, remember when . . .”

“Yes. Tell me.”

Mythological space is vast. This is where publishing comes in. The industry, the profession, the byline. Publishing is a necessary means of getting the story, the message, the letters out; it’s linked to the industry, the machine, the network of the existence, distribution, and storing of creative thought, a manifestation of social organization, political form, media, and tradition. No publishing without letters or a means of recording voice. “Something” has to be published. The “something” has to be transferred from one hand to the next. We worry about it, want it, like it, and profit from it in many ways. It’s a method of meeting human need and investment.

There are a lot of things we don’t need. Blue toothpaste, for example.

But discussion of markets, publishing, papers, prestige, and the business of storytelling and media will always lead the writer and the reader back to the basics. Without story we can’t live. We need to hear stories, need to tell them, whatever their forms. Bravo to the audience.

Everybody wants the good guy to win. But not everyone will agree on the criteria. The audience wants Odysseus to make it home and drive off the suitors. Luke Skywalker aims and fires, and does anyone wish for a glancing blow? Out there under the purple clouds (you can just see the twinkle) is a flash of light. You begin to move toward it. The hero sets off to find that grail so needed for salvation. We have the departure, the test, the return, the protagonist slimmed by fire and cold. The hero rises then falls. The search, the fall, the rise, the winning and the losing.

Same old story. And keep ringing it.


6 responses to “story and biology”

  1. Neha says:

    Why write if it’s all been said before anyway?

  2. Maureen says:

    …Because it [the story] is not exactly the same with each retelling….

    ..Because even if you comment or write on something that has been said or done before..your perspective is a new one..it is not exactly “the same old story”…

    By the way, I sent out a message on “Narrative” yesterday..but I don’t think it went through..Suffice it to say, I had a job interview after work..wish me luck..my the gods find favor upon me..

    Most Graciously,

    Maureen
    *A Mayde in her own little woode….

  3. steve says:

    Neha, you know the answer to that question.

    When a soldier returns home from Iraq hers is a similar story to Homer’s. The context changes, and so does the audience.

  4. gibb says:

    Of course Neha understands. But the perception, point of view, and persistance of a story is driven by frame of mind and intensity. Neha’s story right now is one of separation and it colors much of what she sees and feels around her. Thus, the context changes the story of Neha reading this post. The story is also changed by her conscious decision to let it be changed. And Neha, you understand all this better than a large majority of the human population (’cause you’re kinda smart that way).

  5. Neha says:

    I love being spoken for. Ofcourse I understand. Sometimes questions are asked to give answers to those who think ten times before raising their hands to ask them.

  6. Neha says:

    Hey Teach, I’m not at TypePad anymore.