More on stories, religion, and other assorted universes
27 March 2006, 5:28 PM
Since Your Humble Blogger got provoked by Benjamin Rosenbaum into writing acres of drivel (unlike the usual acres of drivel off my own bat), there has been a good deal of fascinating discussion in various corners about what I perhaps wrongly called core stories. As I said here, I think religion is the core story, the story we cling to that provides the frame for everything else. I tried to give a few examples of what I mean, but my fondness for brevity (no, stop laughing, OK, you, stop it, you know what I mean) led me to attempt to distill these stories into one-sentence emblems of themselves. Which is, I think, a tremendously useful and powerful task, as I tried to explain, but on the other hand, it’s also a tremendously wasteful and distracting one. As a result, some of the conversation about “core stories” (including, bye-the-bye, a lovely shiur over at the Chrononautic Log) has gone to my mind a trifle astray. When I talk about core stories, I really am talking about stories, and when I say that my core story is that we were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt and the Lord brought us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, I am using ritual language to tell, in brief, the whole story of the Exodus from Egypt, plagues and parting seas and the miraculous staff and Miriam singing on the far shore. And, yes, that sentence does highlight (I almost wrote it privileges) some aspects of the story over others, which is how I like it, and that’s where the useful and powerful comes in, don’t you know.
Another problem with the discussion was pointed out, astutely, by Gentle Reader Dan P, who observed that the whole thing had become, or had even started as, a bit of a pissing contest between a bunch of guys, with the clear if unintended consequence of making it effectively impossible to hear any female core stories. This is, in part, simply a function of Mr. Duncan, Mr. Rosenbaum, Mr. Moles, Mr. Hartman, and Mr. HumbleBlogger being guys, for which decision we ought not be penalized. On the other hand, this sort of thing happens conspicuously often, and is one of those things that should really convince us of the evil of the patriarchy; whether we intended to or not, we engaged in actions that blinded us to what the universe is like to women, who are different one to another as well as to men (who are different one to another our own poor selves), and if there’s anything that makes the world interesting and fun, that is it.
Anyway, Mr. Percival asked some of his acquaintance to Tell Me a Story, which they did, and it has been fascinating. My primary observation was that several brought up stories that they had once had as frames through which to see the world, but later discovered were distorting lenses or entirely opaque. Prince Charming came up, as did a story described as That Girl/Mary Tyler Moore, which is the story of a woman who finds both intellectual fulfillment and close friendship in the workplace. It led me to wonder to what extent women, rather than men, would be likely to bring up busted core stories. I have my own busted core stories (the Self-Destructive Genius, the confirmed Bachelor, the Wise Uncle), but in my arrogant patriarchal (and to some extent temperamentally Conservative) way, it wouldn’t occur to me to start the conversation with those. No, I would start, I did start, with what I think the world really is like.
So. As I didn’t specifically ask my Gentle Readers for their core stories, I will do so now. What stories do you think you have escaped from? What stories do you want to escape from, but have trouble doing so? What stories do you not want to escape from at all?
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,