Thursday 25 April 2013

Narrative glue

While I was professor of English I spent some time wandering around the precinct of Lit. Theory. This is a very conceptual place to ponder. What's more is that if you dare to say or write anything, someone is bound to argue, criticize or even worse, ignore you on purpose. Nevertheless, I learned valuable things. Having put some distance between that time of theoretical analysis and the more concrete purposes of coaching at this time, the amazing dynamics of narrative have impressed me more and more. People like Dorian Haarhoff have made huge contributions by introducing so many individuals and groups to the power of story, not on a theoretical basis, but concretely, practically, creatively, therapeutically.

Narrative glue holds a narrative together. Narrative glue also draws narratives together. Narrative glue is to be found integrally in the human mind, not as an objective substance, although a trip to Bodyworlds and a working knowledge of neurotransmission will do much to amplify the physiological dynamics of this magical glue. I discovered narrative glue after thinking about Freke and Gandy's book The Jesus Mysteries for more than a decade. Recently I had the cheek to write to Tim Freke via facebook, because this is possible, and to comment on his work. His encouraging remarks about my remarks made me stop to think a bit more. His take on the Gnostic gospels is that they can be better grasped if not taken literally, and probably shouldn't be taken literally at all. My take is that the gospels are not merely to be understood, but are living myths requiring participation. All stories with heart are like this.

I think this is why Lord of the Rings, The Narnia Chronicles and Harry Potter have proved immensely attractive. People don't merely read (or watch) stories. They actually enter the stories. Well, I do. I have entered stories since very early childhood, listening to Aunty Carol making it up, with all the fairy tales intertwined, begging her to make the train go into the tunnel, so that the predictable mayhem could mayhum.

In "real" life, we have ways and means of separating stories from each other, virtually enforcing categories of truthfulness (intensities of feeling and understanding) with escape holes so that return to "reality" remains possible.

Well, it seems to me that each human organism is a nexus for all stories. The ones that remain close are family narratives, cultural mantras, dramas of immediate history, from the very personal to the larger contexts that are the moving backdrops. Then the living myths, dressed up in stories of faith, impressing with the need for decisive living, and commitment to the deepest stirrings of the heart.

The "dreams that come" are stories too, though not as controllable or predictable as the laws of physics and chemistry. Narrative glue is weird. (Weird acutally means the experience of change while growing from a recognizeable place to an as yet unrecognizeable place.) I have a story in mind that I have come to fear. It takes place one hundred and fifty thousand million years from now, when not one human will be left, because the mountain ranges, the earth itself, the sun, the entire solar system will have changed because it has all gone. I may have the time line wrong, but you know what I mean.

What will have happened to the memory of the entire human race? Will the Akashic record still breathe life into something that remote, or will there be a gentle turning of the page, and a new thing, that will utterly replace the old? Here I come to my limits, and don't know what to think, or feel. . I don't know if deep affection is allowed an eternal home, although it asks for one. I don't know if human awareness and consciousness is precious enough to it's own genesis to carry on forever. When I was five, my dear Irish friend made me grasp that eternity isn't a long time: it's forever. Forever is serious.

The narratives to which we make commitments are important because they make commitments back to us. The glue is real, though not easily read, because it is the ink with which we write our lives.

Of this I'm sure: not one of us is alone, ever. In my most solitary moments I have felt a great crowd watching me intently. I have felt the swirls of many, many stories making mine what it is. I have also felt intimations of the grand metaphor, and have not dared to approach this holy ground with words. I'm not sure we should. I have also come to distrust the first personal pronoun, which I think is a linguistic misappropriation. In my Zen moments I don't mind not existing, but I prefer the Jungian moments of the eternally emerging self. And then I get utterly impatient with all this word-wringing, and wonder who ever wants to be themselves forever? How boring can it all get?

I used to write stories, but it got scarey. As I wrote, they came to life and actually happened, around me. My wife said I should quickly write about making lots of money, but that impulse doesn't work out.

Narrative glue. The stories you allow come to you. The stories you want, well, all I can say is that I have achieved every dream of my life, so far, and am checking out what is yet to come.

Something there is that draws all stories together, and creates a highway of words. If you know this, and walk on, your being will begin to sink, rise and respond to the the gift of language, the key that regulates freedom.

Humans have language. They also make stories. Additionally, they can add all manner of stories to their repertoire of understanding.

Yet, it's a glue. What dreams may come, what stories feel to be true: the mystery of our involvement goes, I hope, beyond that one hundred and fifty million thousand years. Not many of us have the gift of anchoring our words to this world while sailing the seventy-seven seas of eternity.

It doesn't matter. Not much does. Glue is glue. You feel it, you know it, it sticks, it takes over if it's strong. You can't wash it off easily.

Linked to the strength of narrative, it's forever. This is a really amazing call. We feel it in music, we know it in dance, we understand it in art. We perform it in faith.

There's a gate, a door by which we enter, by which we leave, also by which we return, then from which we move on. This is the here and now. Then there's the forever. For a human mind it's all a bit scarey, because, like a hobbit, we aren't that brave. Yet we have it all within our understanding.

The glue is fine, you can trust it.

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