Sunday, April 27, 2014

Building Blocks

What makes a story ? This question has been raising itself every so often, butting into my consciousness. I am never particularly satisfied with any of my attempts at an answer. I know a story when I hear one or when I read one or when I see one. I don't even think about it. When I try to think one up, though, it seems to be only a part of a story, like a word is only part of a sentence. If someone asks me to tell them a story, I freeze, go all formal, worry about beginning middle and end. I forget that a story can really be anything. A word, a sentence or a paragraph.
    Maybe even just a letter.
    A moment is only part of a day but a story can be built around a moment. This is where maybe I get tripped up, the fractal nature of story.
    Every word in any text can be a portal that leads to some other world. Imagine is every word here was a link leading to another page. And so on. We'd never get to the end of those thousand and one nights. We'd evade a beheading with sheer distraction. We'd also wear ourselves out.
    Story is one of those things that the world is made of. Our identities are stories we tell ourselves, stories other people slap on us, stories we can't shake, stories that tie us down or even liberate us.
    We tell our mate about our day. We tell our friends about the guys at work. We tell strangers about our secret affairs. We tell ourselves that we are cute or dumb or fat or poor or lonely or happy. We often are set on loop, repeating the same old stories about ourselves, about our parents. We lock people in with words describing them. We can rewrite history literally by changing words, by switching meanings, by making the good guys bad, by turning villains into heroes.
    I've rediscovered mythology. I took a long detour away from conscious recognition of how it underwrites the world. I got caught up in matters at hand, so to speak, in politics, in popular opinion versus the lone voice in the wilderness. I took sides, rooted for the underdog, scowled at the bully with his status quo. It took me a while but I think I may have returned home and I think the path there is paved with myths. Old old stories, told in poetry, told of the gods and the worlds and the animals and the ancestors.
    What makes a story ? Better to ask what the world is made of. The world is made of stories.