STORYMAN VERSUS NATURE

It’s dark out there, and cold without a story.

AN EARLY INTIMATION OF THE OLD “SUBLIME”

I remember lying on my back as a child in the sloping grassy field below the water towers in West Lawn, absorbed by the full spread of the night sky, then being suddenly overpowered and petrified by the vastness and mystery of everything. Physically shaken, shivering in the summer air, I needed to quickly look away, back toward familiar earth, to control the feeling. As I recall now the shapes packed within that feeling, I sensed that my little "I" would fall upwards and be forever lost in the inexplicable vastness. But there was more. The awful power contained in this noticing could not be forgotten, and I sensed that this terrible knowledge, this appalling wonder would be available to my thinking forever, and that I would have to return to it again. Perhaps I was 7 or 8 years old.


In more recent years I've tied that early experience to our fascination with storytelling, and the way in which we can never, ever, step outside of the storytelling posture until the self is in some way eclipsed (all this bears closer investigation). We need a way of "framing off" the rude fearsomeness of the Universe, or making a human corral inside of the brute machine of Nature that eats us all alive (perhaps even as we attempt to convey or sustain a self in the harsh light of spacetime). Thus we like stories because they always involve/include an "us" or "me" and they prove the friendliness of the Nature that generates us. A story is a frame, with an inside and an outside. Outside the frame (not the focus of the story) lies the Unnamable Otherness which is frightful to behold. Inside the frame all things are more or less civilized and familiar. Even the terrible beasts we include in our traditional storytelling are familiar "unknowns".


By always wanting to know "what comes next" we forever anticipate more stuff within the frame, even fashioning the stuff we'll contend with after we die.