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Posts Tagged ‘Storytelling’

Apologies for the long dearth of posts. I myself have been ambushed by that terrible state known as “having a job”, and am still trying to adjust to fitting my accustomed activities around 7.5 hours of moderately strenuous manual labour each day. Posts for wednesday and next saturday are being worked on.

One thing I always found curious about the Old Testament is how God’s chief rivals bear names that apply just as well to God himself; which naturally leads to God showing a certain concern for brand differentiation to avoid confusion. Two names that crop up very frequently are Baal, meaning “lord” or “master” (and also “husband”), and Moloch (or Molech), meaning “king” – both terms that can be applied to God. Additionally, the very word for “God” in Hebrew is El, which among the Canaanites also referred to a specific deity who was merely one among a pantheon. It’s not surprising that the Israelites often turned to worshipping the gods of the nations; it seems fertile territory for “we all worship the same god(s) really” arguments.
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Storytellers

I am a very bad writer. This is not to say I write poorly, but that I write with all the emphatic dedication of a drunken traffic cop; I’m trying but probably not very hard, and I count myself a hard worker if I get a page done every other day. This is in large measure the reason I wanted to start up There Are Real Things — to get a bit of the pressure back, while at the same time having some backup to keep the blog from going forever dead. A man of high ideals who has difficulty getting to work, let us all pray to the Most High God that this will not be a dead letter at the beginning.

Anyway, as writers are wont to do, I’m always devising little tales to tell. Because my other principal project is a science fiction adventure comic about transforming superheroes, they often fall within the realm covered by that book, which I’ve tried to keep relatively broad by mixing and melding genres — as always, the art of the twenty-first century is that of reappropriation — but regardless, the tales come up, be they apocalypse and revelation or honest men trying to do good and failing. I drive myself to distraction with them; they take up my mind in my prayer, they leave me unfocused, unsettled, and insecure during mass, and they violate my dreams with their damned insistence. Maybe this is just me, and maybe everything I’ve got to say about it doesn’t hold a single drop of water. Maybe it’s impossible to universalize human experience — this has been a topic of discussion in my Problem of God class. But maybe, too, maybe everything is story, and everyone a storyteller.

I spent one pleasant afternoon combing through decades’ worth of commercials for Kellogs’ Golden Crisp, a vile cereal that tastes like burning hatred which happens to be hawked by the single greatest mascot mankind has ever devised, Sugar Bear, who is apparently the God of his world, or at least its Gary Mitchell, which is another discussion entirely. These commercials were not otherwise connected — apart from a brief narrative arc in the late 1980’s — but seemed to display a very consistent story to the character, a sort of slow corruption from a vitamin-powered superhero who protected Granny Goodwitch from evil cereal-stealing monsters to being himself the beast, now of incalculable power, vexing the same kind old lady. I don’t think any of this was conscious on the part of the various storyboard writers responsible — which would really be displaying a remarkable amount of depth for cereal commercials — but it certainly demonstrates a tendency toward narrative in the most inane activities.

Paul has long vexed me as a reader of the New Testament; I have fallen like an asteroid hurtling toward the Earth, dooming the dinosaurs, into the gravity well of the Gospels and Acts and, for that matter, Genesis. These are stories, and I can deal with stories. They flow like life, even if the only part of life they resemble is a dream, but they are something into which I can enter, which I can experience the way I experience anything. Paul writes long and supine lectures, gazing into the heavens, while God makes man from the dirt beneath Paul’s head. I always think of God as a storyteller, crafting the universe, start to finish, the more care than the greatest masters. And maybe this is why we write. Maybe we’re all, on one level or another, storytellers. Story is how we relate to a world of story; we have narratives in our heads which we use to apprehend everything we encounter. Even our rational arguments fall into a tale of some kind, some framework that makes sense of everything. Every conflict, every love, every moment falls into some tale being told.

Listen: this is a story. There was a man with two sons. One was born early, reckoned the man’s but with a slave for a mother. He had no stake in the birthright. The other, born properly, was favored and taken into the family, while the elder was cast out, a refugee and exile. They hated each other, and so did their children, on and on, down and down, even to the present day.

Listen: this, too, is a story. There was a teacher who taught in tales. He told of fullers and sowers and virgins with lamps. He taught of seed and pearls and building projects. His followers loved him but did not understand him, and so one day, he angered them, and that anger turned their love, as it does, to pure and vicious hate. They had him beaten and killed, as many spurned lovers would have done to their exes if given the chance. What friends he had left went to care for his body, but his body was not there. And so the followers of the storyteller had a real doozy to tell.

Listen: this is a story as well. There were in those days no days, so some had to be made. So Yahway in the sky, knowing days need places to be days, made land and sea and fish, bird and lion and aurochs and mammoth, and for them night, and for them day. He made it full, and yet it was empty. So he made a man, and he made a woman, and gave them everything in the world. “Fill it,” he said, “but do not pass through my gate.” And the Man and the Woman lived and were happy, till there came to them a certain snake. “You have filled the world. There are people in every land. Why shall you not take Beyond-the-Gate?” So the Woman said, “Yahway, who rules everything, and gave it all to us, did not give us Beyond-the-Gate.”  “But,” said the snake, “soon the world will all be taken, with no room left for you. You will be driven out and murdered by your children unless you take that plentiful land. Yahway would want you to thrive there.” Being convinced, the Woman and the Man passed through into Beyond-the-Gate, and found it vast and plentiful, with unknown fruits and grains, and vast seas of glimmering, golden water. So they drank and they ate of the fruit, but when they heard Yahway coming, they fled. Outside, they grew frightened and cold, so they fashioned skirts for themselves out of the reeds. And so Yahway came to them and sayd “Have you been into Beyond-My-Gate?” The Man said “No, sir.” “But your hands are covered in the seeds from therein.” And so the Man and the Woman were ashamed. “O my children!” Yahway said. “What have you done? You have eaten the fruit and so gained my knowledge, and drunken the water, and so gained my skill, but not taken the grain, and so no gained my wisdom and goodness. Begone from hearth, and fill the earth till I come with bread made from that grain! You shall toil and die and be ruled over by your chuldren. But I will not forget you.” And the Man and the Woman were cast out, and toiled, and died.

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