It’s All Story

Neofoxes may actually be said to be specialists in one thing: Story.

Telling, hearing, finding, living … Story.

The first book we worked on together was PragMagic (Pocket Books, 1991). We distilled a decade of reporting that had appeared in Marilyn Ferguson’s Brain/Mind Bulletin, a newsletter that had become a clearinghouse for all kinds of research and discoveries in science, health, creativity, psychology, social sciences, and education. We took this information and turned it into a whopper of a self-help book. Throughout the book we emphasized Story: How can this or that piece of information be used to enrich the story of your life?

We still see the primacy of Story reasserted all over the place. I’m just now looking at a video of the legendary split-brain research pioneer Michael S. Gazzaniga talking about “your storytelling brain,” and how the human is a “storytelling animal.” And it doesn’t much matter whether our stories are “real” or “made-up.”

We once had the privilege of collaborating with cognitive philosopher Daniel C. Dennett on an experimental essay/story called “Media-Neutral,” which eventually appeared in our first novel The Jamais Vu Papers. In it, a psychiatrist discovers that he’s a character in a book—The Jamais Vu Papers, in fact. Desperate to understand how being fictional affects his life, our character goes to Dennett for advice. “Media-Neutral” was great fun to work on, and Dennett threw himself into his therapist-philosopher role wholeheartedly. (The piece was reprinted in Speculations: The Reality Club 1click to download.)

In his book Consciousness Explained, Dennett likens the self to a center of gravity. One might object, “The trouble with centers of gravity is that they aren’t real; they’re theorists’ fictions.” Here is Dennett’s answer:

That’s not the trouble with centers of gravity; it’s their glory. They are magnificent fictions, fictions anyone would be proud to have created. And the fictional characters of literature are even more wonderful. Think of Ishmael, in Moby-Dick. “Call me Ishmael” is the way the text opens, and we oblige. We don’t call the text Ishmael, and we don’t call Melville Ishmael. We call Ishmael Ishmael, the wonderful fictional character to be found in the pages of Moby-Dick.

So we neofoxes are deeply committed to Story. In our memoir/essay “A Mexico of the Mind” (anthologized in Solamente en San Miguel, Windstorm, 2007), Pat and I offered this reflection:

Storytelling, like all art, like life, is an act of learning—of finding out. We are mistaken to assume that stories of transformation are only about transformation, mere illustrations. Instead, they are transformation itself, acts of practical alchemy, with the power to alter the reality of every receptive person they touch. (That’s why we must learn to recognize a hate-based tale in any garb, and admit that nothing holy feeds on pain.) As we live our stories and tell them, we learn what they are about … and they change … and they transform.

19 comments on “It’s All Story

  1. wonderful stuff, love your writing, and the ideas are so inspiring. I felt excited reading your beautiful last sentence – especially “nothing holy feeds on pain”.
    What wonderful projects and people you worked on and with.
    Looking forward to more – warm wishes

  2. Deirdre Moore says:

    Just finished reading “Speculations: The Reality Club 1” — love it! Laughs and puzzles and depth… my favorite dessert 🙂

  3. […] I suppose Aforista may be onto something after all. There are no endings in the world of Story. There is only wisdom’s perpetually unfolding […]

  4. […] part of my daughter’s phraseology. It also got me thinking about women and bicycles, and how the Story of gender roles reached a turning point courtesy of a two-wheeled […]

  5. […] hand” creating, of course, in a manner consistent with Genesis. But Charles Darwin’s Story was just getting […]

  6. […] of source materials about the Declaration of Independence. It was fascinating to explore the Story of that great document! Here is the epilogue I wrote for the […]

  7. […] the time, we were fascinated by the role of metaphor in Story (with a capital S). We felt that metaphor was more that just figurative speech, more than just analogy. What was the […]

  8. playsonideas says:

    […] the time, we were fascinated by the role of metaphor in Story (with a capital S). We felt that metaphor was more that just figurative speech, more than just analogy. What was the […]

  9. […] of source materials about the Declaration of Independence. It was fascinating to explore the Story of that great document. Here is the epilogue I wrote for the […]

  10. […] our lives together began with Story. Which would naturally lead to mutant […]

  11. […] Now why should this bother me? It’s not that I object to the play’s status as a rousing anti-creationist polemic. Pat and I are both passionately devoted to evolutionary thought, and we’re constantly exchanging and discussing the latest news stories about discoveries in natural history. To us, the simple fact of evolution is wonderfully and endlessly pertinent to our ongoing fascination with Story. […]

  12. […] the witness stand in Dayton, Ohio. He and Bryan had both fallen for a gross caricature of what Daniel Dennett calls “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.” But that’s hardly a surprise. Theirs was the heyday of […]

  13. […] such hostility? In the spirit of Story, let’s play with this question in a little free-verse fable […]

  14. […] In previous posts, I wrote about Bernard Shaw’s attempt to found an evolution-based religion called Life Force Worship. Shaw’s ideas were based on the pre-Darwinian theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Here’s an admittedly crude and cartoonish rendition of the Lamarckian Story: […]

  15. […] to speak. The find has me thinking about another king, a currently reigning queen, and the power of Story to shape their lives and […]

  16. […] the sort of question that Pat and I ask each other as we pursue our unending fascination with Story. The other day, Pat ran across a bit of news that seems to offer a tantalizing morsel of an answer […]

  17. […] was instantly hooked on the Story. I imagined the extraordinary scene. Sixteen-year-old Sally, three quarters white and the […]

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