The Story

Do you have a conversation topic that doesn't seem to fit any of the other conversations? Here is where we discuss ANYTHING about Joseph Campbell, comparative mythology, and more!

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The Story

Post by Clemsy » Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:21 pm

We don't appreciate the power of story. Story, after all, is how humans make sense of the world at every level: from the personal story inside your head (and don't we like to make up stories in there! lol!) to the story of your home, family and circle of friends, to the story of your politics, to your story about the nature of existence.

Life only has meaning as a story. Otherwise, it's just a series of events.

We get along to the degree we are able to embrace the validity of each other's stories. Conflict is the tension between stories.

We are heroes to the degree we can identify and question the assumptions supporting both the larger, societal narrative and our own personal one, and break out into a new story when the old when becomes obsolete.

What story do you live in?
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by romansh » Sun Jan 27, 2013 5:18 pm

I don't know if this fits here, so feel free to move this post.
There is a book mulling over in my head, and its working title is Agnosticim and Free Will.
Go figure eh?

Anyway one of the chapters is provisionally entitled something like Maps, Myths, Models, Metaphors and Mathematics.

From my perspective these are all "stories" we tell ourselves to help go through life. So is there an alliterative word for a story that begins with 'm'?

So my map and model of how the neighbour fits together are stories. Mathematics and the associated sciences can be looked at as stories of how the universe clicks.

And so on.
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Post by Clemsy » Sun Jan 27, 2013 5:32 pm

I don't know how they themselves are stories. Seems to me, Rom, that how you connect these elements, what role they play, provides the assumptions supporting your personal narrative.

Free will, its validity or invalidity, is a dominant theme in your story. Your assumption about free will provides a certain structure. If the Free Will thread demonstrates anything, it shows how we live in different stories, to one degree or another, in terms of this idea.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by romansh » Sun Jan 27, 2013 5:54 pm

My intention is to avoid that particular topic Clemsy and confine it to the appropriate thread.

But back on topic, these stories we tell ourselves whether they are scientific, mythologic, literary, or the personal thoughts I think you might be referring to. I suspect Decarte's I think, therefore I am is at least partially wrong.

He should have stopped at I think and carried on thinking a bit more.

I really don't know - I'm just trying to flesh out my thoughts and put protein on my fatty calcium phosphate. ;)
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Post by Clemsy » Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:14 pm

Rom, I'm not bringing up free will as it is being discussed in your thread. I raise it because it is important in your story, and therefore very much on topic in this thread.
these stories we tell ourselves whether they are scientific, mythologic, literary, or the personal thoughts I think you might be referring to
I don't think you're quite getting what I'm driving at. We don't tell ourselves "these stories." There's one's own story, of which these are elements. They don't exist on their own outside of us. We use them to frame our personal narrative. Whether we do so correctly or incorrectly (and who's to say this one way or another) is well beside the point.

One lives in a world in which Genesis is history. Another lives in a world in which Genesis is myth. Still another lives in a world in which Genesis is a lie.

One lives in a world in which one needs a gun to protect one's self from "the other" or "the government." Another lives in a world where fear doesn't play such a primary role.

Those are all different stories.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by romansh » Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:37 pm

OK
Does this work?
For me, free will (or more accurately the lack of) was a wedge that split open my 'world' when my son died. When my son died, this cracked my world and made me susceptible to new ideas. At least that is a story that I tell myself.

Ultimately I don't really care whether we have free will or not, so long as our description/story for what passes as reality is as accurate as we can make it. I happen to think the scientific method is a pretty good method of divining our "story". Again I tell myself that.

Regarding the Genesis story, for me it is neither a lie nor a myth (untruth) - but generally speaking it is a poorly interpreted story.
Last edited by romansh on Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Clemsy » Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:53 pm

Yes, Rom. How can the death of your son not be a critical element in your personal narrative, in the world you live in? Such tragedies shake, or destroy, our foundations, the assumptions beneath our stories, and force us to rearrange the world.

How one recovers from such an event determines how the story changes from then on.

You use interesting language here:
When my son died, this cracked my world and made me susceptible to knew ideas.
In the story of the hero, there are three types of Paradise (Innocence, changelessness): the womb, what we are accustomed to, and what we have accomplished. Sometimes one's paradise, one's world (the oraboural round) is cracked open and light (consciousness) pours in. This is the call to adventure. Leaving behind what is known is crossing the threshold, and there is always a threshold guardian (the dragon) waiting to try to make you go back.

A crisis, tragedy, is always a call to adventure. Finding the new story, rebuilding the world, is the task of the hero.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by romansh » Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:09 pm

Yeah - the events all around us, of great portent and the utterly trivial, that shape our lives. I don't know if I told this story before it is of the utterly trivial kind:

I was three years old, on a Bournemouth beach in the UK, a wave rolled over my feet and shifted the sand and unceremoniously plonked me in the brine. I went back to my mother crying and complaining: loudly and in Latvian that the wave had knocked me over. I was sufficiently loud that a mother and daughter on a neighbouring blanket overheard. They were were Latvian too, so this would have been a relatively rare occurrence on Bournemouth beach. Anyway we hanged (hung?) out together for the remainder of our overlapping holidays. Although our parents stayed in touch, I did not see the young girl for the next fourteen years. She'd come to my hometown to study, and she ended up living walking distance from my house with her boyfriend (and later to be husband). Her boyfriend showed me how to play squash and play bridge. Things that I have kept up during the next forty years. Anyway we went our separate ways but were in contact. At university I had an opportunity to do a project related to the 'boyfriend's PhD studies, which I took. A year after I left university I got an opportunity to do a PhD with his supervisor, at the boyfriend's suggestion. This shaped my career and opportunities for work.

I often wonder what would have happened if that wave had not shifted the sand.

Whatever it would have been, it might have been different. Different career, different interests, different location, No James?

So I will ask again is the hero truly steering his path, or does he just think he does?

That's one of my stories and I'm sticking to it ;)
Last edited by romansh on Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:41 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by Clemsy » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:21 am

Rom,

Great story. It's the seemingly trivial details that make the story a good one to hear. This is an excellent example of what I'm talking about. You've tied these events into a narrative. This is what we do.

As for whether the hero steers his own path or not, I don't see as it matters either way. To believe so or not is only a part of the story. The hero reacts to a crisis. That reaction may or may not send the hero on an adventure.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by JamesN. » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:45 am

Hey Clemsy.

My feeling would be that " story " is an important vehicle or dimension of the human interpretation of experience. And suggests to me a doorway, portal, or threshold between this personal or individual experience and the communal or societal area of shared or exchanged experience. And it is through this medium one can apprehend a sense of the mythical or mystical element in his or her own individual perception of reality.

Robert Walters has a saying I like which says: " We as a species are " hardwired " for personal narrative; or story ". And that this act of transference goes back to man's earliest and most primitive times. And he also refers to the realization that it is the in the actual telling or " act " that the " meaning " is extracted. I would also assume that " literature "; theater; song; etc. ( might vary as to interactive ); and most definitely would fall into some kind of similar category. ( This might require some assistance as to " clarity " in this area. :lol: )

But concerning any differences of interpretation of the concept I think probably a more important theme or dynamic to be emphasized here is that " story " is one way that we as human beings are able to grasp a sense of meaning of " self " and of "existence " in this interplay. And also that it is a vehicle of self-authorship and self-understanding in relation to anything that might be discribed as mythical, mystical, or spiritual; as opposed to just any exchange of information or data. ( At least this is what it says to me. )

Addendum: ( It was late at night when I first came upon this thread and my effort I now feel is somewhat lacking as appropiate. I will try a better attempt when I have some time and a chance to organize my thoughts a little more. Nice posts everyone. )
Last edited by JamesN. on Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by SteveC » Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:25 pm

Here is a story.
When I was a freshman in college, the assignment was to write a paper that was our story. I immediately told the professor that I could not write such a thing. I had nothing to say. This was false, of course. My reaction was one of fear. There is nothing more terrifying than the mirror.

I wrote my paper, and it was titled (approximately): What more is life than a cry of pain, a turn of the head, and ash?

The cry of pain is being born. We lose the comfort and ignorance of the womb.Reality enters our consciousness,
The turn of the head is when we discover something new, an epiphany that changes how we see and understand the world and ourselves. Our reality changes.
Ash is the final reality. We are here for a limited time. This is perhaps the only thing we truly 'know."

The paper was the story of my family and my experience, what my father taught me, etc. One thing that stands out was my father used to say 'put it under your belt and move on' whenever something didn't go your way. Life is full of setbacks and disappointments, but has often been repeated, it's not what you go through, it is how you go through it that matters. We control our intellectual and emotional destiny (which I guess is the real proof of free will).

For some reason, my sister-in-law saw this paper and read it. She said I should show it to my father, which I never did. I regret that now, and it is too late since he has passed (assuming I still have it buried somewhere).

Clemsy is more than right that everything is based upon our story. When I was looking at colleges with my middle daughter (SUNY Purchase) we met a kid from Puerto Rico who felt like he was in heaven. Somebody else would tour the same school and see something different. (My daughter was accepted, but didn't go)

Political elections always bring out the stories, and the politicians are constantly trying to manipulate the stories of others for their agenda. Obama's gun speech with the four surviving classmates is one repulsive example, imo. Nevertheless, the stories are real, and people try to process them.

There are two very common stories: the experiences with war and with poverty. I must admit, I don't have much sympathy for these stories. "put it under your belt and move on." As adults, what we need is not our first story but the turn of the head. When a story becomes nothing but a self-indulgent wallowing in whine, matched with a sense of pride and entitlement, people move into a state of what a poster elsewhere called 'the walking dead.' The world ends at their nose.

Of course, every story is part of another story. Everything is constantly a work in progress, and our ash is another event in someone else's story. We are always fascinated with stories, because they connect us to both ourselves and others. The large surveys that Joe Campbell, Huston Smith, Freud, etc., made are fascinating for just that reason.

Stories and fairy tales are what make us who we are. Being a history major, I guess such a statement is no surprise. There is no event that does not have an infinite number of perspectives involved. Our story is our indoctrination. How can my good be your evil?

We are strange beings. We love to hear the same story again and again. We want it to be true.(I know every scene and all the songs in the movie Jungle Book, which my daughter watched 10000 times). Stories, like our parents, teach and give us comfort. Undoubtedly that explains a lot about religion, eh?

We are all story tellers, and we are all teachers of one another.

I was thinking the other day that I would like to buy two DVD's. Metropolis (Fritz Lang) and Passing Strange (dir by Spike Lee). And then I realized that nobody would watch them in my house. They are too deep, and they prefer romantic comedies. In fact, almost every story has an element of romance in them. It can be Die Hard fighting terrorists, but the glue between the hero and his wife and family is a major part of the film. (Terrorists, we are to believe, are never motivated by love of family).

The problem with most stories is that there is an external enemy that is created. Jesus says to love your enemy, but most religion practices the opposite. Christians can't even get along with Christians. A story is like any other object. It can be a tool or a weapon. The truth or false propaganda.

Rom, your beach story reminds me of how random everything is. Free Will is always within a context of experience and chance encounters. In my book, I discuss how our economic life is like that, too. While we all experience the same connection to money (livelihood, etc) we all experience the volatility differently.

We can relate to our stories because we have all experienced innocence, fear, epiphanies, lucky chances, love, disappointment, sorrow, hunger, etc. We are all far more alike than different, which is why false differences are so troublesome. I believe we were born to share and love one another.

I will stop babbling. You may have opened up a great thread Clemsy.
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The radical myth towards which the helix aspires is beyond the desire for money or power, yet which has greater returns than all the power and money in the world could not achieve.
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Post by Clemsy » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:40 pm

James... about your Robert Walter reference...
Robert Walters has a saying I like which says: " We as a species are " hardwired " for personal narrative; or story ". And that this act of transference goes back to man's earliest and most primitive times. And he also refers to the realization that it is the in the actual telling or " act " that the " meaning " is extracted.
My inspiration for starting this thread was a review of Mythic Journeys, from which I think you pulled this reference. (If any of you have not purchased and seen this wonderful vid yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I own two copies. One for me and one to lend.)

However, the importance of story, for me, goes much deeper. This has been simmering for a long time. Indeed, you can say that the importance of story is integral to my story. After all, what do I do every day? I guide my students through stories. The more I've thought about it, the more in awe I am at how central the story structure is to how we humans understand the world and our place in it.

I'm mulling the idea that the underpinnings of our personal story is our personal myth. All four functions seem to be present, yes? Our morality and ethics, our connection with the divine, our assumptions about how the world works and is shaped, and our thoughts of self in relation to who we were, who we think we are, and who we hope to be.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by Clemsy » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:00 pm

You may have opened up a great thread Clemsy.
Thank you, Steve. You know, what do we do here but compare stories? We very often put them in competition with each other, try to fit them together, try to knock a brick out of another's here and there. In doing so, we add to the story of this space.

It's all story.
We are all story tellers, and we are all teachers of one another.
I find this very much the case and an extremely profound thought.
We are strange beings. We love to hear the same story again and again. We want it to be true.(I know every scene and all the songs in the movie Jungle Book, which my daughter watched 10000 times). Stories, like our parents, teach and give us comfort. Undoubtedly that explains a lot about religion, eh?
This is an interesting observation. Why do certain stories resonate with us so deeply? I think Campbell and Jung would ask, what archetypes are being stimulated? Is this another key? Archetypes have no meaning outside the structure of a story, and archetypes are the psychic symbols that bind us together. Hmmm.... Cindy territory! lol!
Political elections always bring out the stories, and the politicians are constantly trying to manipulate the stories of others for their agenda.
Propaganda is story manipulation. Politics and religion are good topics to examine the premise of this thread, because each orientation is bound by its narrative: certain things are held to be "true" therefore the world must be in accord with that truth.

One thing we can do with this thread is share stories, much the way that Rom and Steve have.

Especially the ones that start with a random event.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by SteveC » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:45 pm

One of the things I have never understood is why people consider 'fiction' to not be true. Before I decided to major in History, I was going to be an English major. (I wanted to be a writer). Stories are full of history, and vice versa. They cannot be separated. While the events may be 'fictional' the story they tell is not. Hamlet is as real as Caesar in our psyche.

Even science fiction is based upon our reality and the projected development of science.

I never read fiction anymore, but at one time that was all I read (all the classics). I am most at home in Russia, ironically. (Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Turgenev's Fathers and Sons). History is real and understandable undoubtedly because of the literature I read first: real people making real decisions in the context of their society.

We have so many blessings in our society. It is difficult to reconcile the complacency that reigns supreme. If we do not recognize our stories in context, and learn from our mistakes, we will lose everything. That is a story that has repeated many times. We teach kids by example, and that perhaps is the most important story we share.
You can only see the height of a mountain from its valley.


The radical myth towards which the helix aspires is beyond the desire for money or power, yet which has greater returns than all the power and money in the world could not achieve.
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Post by romansh » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:28 am

SteveC wrote: Rom, your beach story reminds me of how random everything is. Free Will is always within a context of experience and chance encounters. In my book, I discuss how our economic life is like that, too. While we all experience the same connection to money (livelihood, etc) we all experience the volatility differently..
I don't quite know what random is Steve. Other than something I can't predict.

Having said that I don't see it as random, more like connected - intricate connections in Indra's web. In what you describe as random, I suspect there are patterns, but we are just too close to the material to see the pattern.
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