Illiterate: Lost Narratives

Discourse is dead. Soundbite hypnosis prevails. We’ve forgotten how to hear, watch, and read the lost narratives that swim around us, that weave us together. We’ve forgotten.

The lion's head from the side of the lost and found bin... (Photo: virtualDavis)

The lion’s head from the side of the lost and found bin…

Or we’ve chosen to forget, to be illiterate, to ignore the narratives. Chosen to muddle them, to mask them, to distort them.

This is what I see when my optimism is smudged with soot and grease. This is what I was seeing when I came across Tim Akimoff’s thoughts on lost narratives. Or narrative illiteracy.

The saddest thing in the whole world right now is that we’re illiterate.

We’ve lost our sense of narrative. We only remember a few basic things, and into these things we try to cram every thing that makes us happy or sad.

If they fit nicely, we are comforted. If they don’t fit nicely, we re-write them or try to bury them…

The world is full of narratives. It is not ours to decide if they fit something we already understand…

It is ours to listen, to read, to watch. To look beyond the craftsmanship of story to the truths that tie us all together into one big, ugly, beautiful tribe…

And sometimes ours is to suffer in the lack of knowledge. Sometimes ours is to feel, with others, the tragedy that defies explanation. This too is story. (The Narrative, by Tim Akimoff on October 28, 2014, Medium)

Perhaps we can create a lost and found bin for narratives. Perhaps we are that bin… And we can filter through the lost narratives, listening and feeling, even suffering, the truths. And then perhaps we will wipe the smudge from our optimism with a hankie. And sally forth!

2 Comments to “Illiterate: Lost Narratives”

  1. Anne says:

    So is this ‘narrative’ in the sense of natives huddled around the campfire listening to each other tell hunting stories? Because I’d agree there’s a lot less of that. But isn’t there an awful lot of narrative out on the Web, for example? And how lovely that we can choose which ones we follow (perhaps because we agree with it, or perhaps justement because we don’t). In Ancient Greece philosophers walked around the agora spouting their wisdom, and students could choose who they walked with and listened to (or so my erudite colleague tells me): isn’t the Web recreating this to some extent? And isn’t that something to be optimistic about? Sally forth indeed VirtualDavis!

  2. virtualDavis says:

    Anne, it’s great to read your words, hear your voice, and perceive your smile! Thanks for sharing your optimism.

    In one word, “Yes!” The web is indeed a digital agora, and there’s so much to be optimistic about. And yet, there are days when optimism flags, briefly, usually, but flags nonetheless. I read Tim Akimoff‘s post during one of those dips, and it rang sadly true. The agora is there. The stories are perhaps more divers than ever. And yet this too is true:

    “We only remember a few basic things, and into these things we try to cram every thing that makes us happy or sad.

    If they fit nicely, we are comforted. If they don’t fit nicely, we re-write them or try to bury them…”

    Perhaps Akimoff oversimplifies (most stories do), but the point is clear. We’re not as curious as we might be about all of the fresh, unfamiliar narratives. Or we prefer to ignore them. Disfigure them. Destroy them… Maybe sometimes we’re threatened by unfamiliar narratives? So we seccumb to a Procrustean urge to distort the rich narratives according to our needs.

    A dark cloud overhead? Perhaps. It was shaped by the much recent US election cycle messaging. Too much spin and distortion and narrative illiteracy on both sides of the aisle! Too little curiosity. Too much judgment.

    There must be a healthier way, no? I’m with Akimoff here too.

    “It is not ours to decide if they fit something we already understand…

    It is ours to listen, to read, to watch. To look beyond the craftsmanship of story to the truths that tie us all together…”

    It’s time for more deep listening. More stillness. More wonder. More curiosity. More tolerance. More respect. More learning. :-)

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