Thursday, September 12, 2013

Story vs. life

The essence of a story is a difficulty (or several) overcome.  The essence of life is continuity, another round, another day.  Our innate sense of pattern detection, our basic need for excitement, for challenge, for achievement make a story attractive.  Since we can't control nature, the outbreak of a wind storm or a fire or a tsunami, the easiest and nearest source of difficulty and challenge is other people.  They may commit a crime or develop a strong passion, say of jealousy or rage or shame.  They may have a medical problem develop.

As long as SOME challenge or difficulty appears, we can have a story trajectory where we meet the problem, which may well be very frightening and menacing.  We can mentally participate in a long, sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill, struggle to overcome the problem. Finally, we can celebrate a victory over the problem.

There are parallels between life and a story, of course, explaining our interest in stories' applicability to our lives.  Do we fail to keep our insurance paid up?  Are we, like the heroine, spending more and more on the Home Shopping Network?  Are we skipping our yoga classes and getting stiffer, like "Mom" in the story?  Are we alienating ourselves from "Dad" because of his increasing grumpiness and negativity?

As with most things in life, there is probably a balance to be achieved between immersion in stories and attending to the ongoing continuity of life.  We are surrounded by the entertainment business that offers us stories in many different media 24 hours a day, everyday.  What are some alternatives to stories that can assist in keeping significance in life?

Celebrating routine with drinks, anniversaries, remembrances can re-attune us to the steady rhythm of our lives.

Being aware that under what appears to be that steady rhythm is a steady change: we age each day, we face different physical, financial, political situations each hour, not just each day.  So, note the unique qualities of the day, the opportunity.  Will we pass this way again?  Say you are living in your daughter's house, assisting with the kids and the life of the family while she tries to get her dissertation completed.  Take some pictures, meditate, journal, contemplate what is happening.  She is going to succeed but this is almost certainly the only chance you will have to be in this situation, viewing life from this angle, participating in just this way with just these tools, ever. Make it count.

If you are more modern, you can use that smartphone or your grandson can do it for you, to take a short video of life in a doctoral prep household and post it on YouTube or Facebook.  Now, that is modern!

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