Where Do Stories Come From?
My niece, Jennifer Grisanti, posted an intriguing comment on line. “The void between illusion and the truth is where story lives,” she said. It got me to thinking about where indeed the stories, that we tell, do come from.
Deep within the murky penumbra of our unconscious mind, lies a latticework of memories, stories, fears and aspirations. They are a compendium of every tale, fable and family whisper that we have ever heard. And those narrations are a collection of all of the information that those who came before us had acquired in their stay on this planet. It is indeed quite a store of anecdotal information. All of this data is encoded in electro chemical storage within the unconscious. The bio-electronic synapses intermingle and overlap, as they percolate in our mental cauldron, until sometimes the lines between the various storage units softens and dissolves. One tale can merge with another in an intriguing overlay like a pile of transparencies on an overhead projector.
I think this is the place where the surreal and the fantastic merge and give rise to the stories that we tell on a cold night around a smoky campfire. Amidst the querulous Celts, from whom I am descended, this is and was a long respected and much-admired tradition. One of telling us who they are and from whence they had come and the collected experiences passed down to them through the generations. It is quite literally antiquity speaking to us, through a veil of dimly remembered times and events.
The preferred villain, perhaps an ogre or a snidely whiplash caricature, always surfaces and threatens the youthful aspirant. The young Lochinvar always gets around the imposing barrier, of the lurking beast, and succeeds in his/her quest, to the joy of all the watchers. Does that about cover much of our known Literature? Oh, of course, there are several types of treachery, and the injustice of many human failings, that spices up the plot.
And if you stir in the machinations of aliens and super beings, you can explain just about anything that happens to us as a species. Everyone wants to believe in a rational explanation, even if it involves fantastic influences. “Why?” is always the question. “Who knows,” is often the answer. That’s where writers and presidential aides come in. We make up alternative facts that explain away what happened. If the tale is artfully constructed, some-times readers believe us and enjoy the experience. At other times, they wrinkle a brow and say “ C’mon, who are you kidding?
It is the reader or the listener that creates reality. They parse the assembled narrative and interpret for themselves what both facts and solutions are. They assign a relative credibility to each. That is as it should be. We all look through many prisms to interpret what our senses tell us. Age, gender, geography, education, profession and geographical location are but a few of the filters that color what we see and hear. No wonder many of us arrive at different interpretations of the same set of facts.
At least, storytellers don’t claim to tell the truth. We just keep spinning the yarns and hope that we entertain the listener or reader. The question of course is, “who is the story teller and who isn’t?”
( 555 words)
Joseph Xavier Martin