Our lives, such as we know them, are webs of interconnected stories we tell ourselves, based largely on stories others tell us, which in turn have been influenced almost to the point of plagiarism by a series of collective myths.
In order to live a happy and comfortable life, we must not become over-reliant upon any single one of these myths, but must seek to draw from several or all of them to create lives and selves that are not riven with loathing and despair.
Where is Love? “Love” is “real”, for it is the one thing humans who are not actively seeking to destroy themselves and others agree upon. Is this my Faith, my Spirituality? Perhaps. But I would argue here for a definition of Love as the energy that supports the existence and survival of these myths. Love is inseparable from all that we do or think, though it often reveals itself in absence or opposition.
As Love is the force that creates and sustains these myths, so we create and sustain ourselves through acts of Creativity (thought, communication, action, sex, intoxication, work), Consumption (food, sex, shopping, intoxication) and Abstention (from shopping, communicating, doing, making, food, sex, work, intoxication). Yet whilst we also seek to destroy ourselves (by communicating without thinking, thinking without communicating etc), such acts of destruction do not damage the myths; rather, they strengthen them. In this sense, the myths follow an organic principle – they are, remarkably, more ‘in touch with Nature’ than we are ourselves. Beyond our own cruel psyches, death always preempts rebirth.
Time and Mortality, like Love, are amythical. We do not have forever. Coping with this “reality” is our greatest challenge of all – and that is why most of us would rather believe in Romance, Reputation, Identity, Work, Acquisition, Spirituality and Family. For, in fact, Death is all.
The role of the storyteller is to rearticulate these myths in seemingly infinite permutations in order to render them simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. The storyteller might seek to render a myth familiar or unfamiliar at the level of the thing itself or via the mode in which it is expressed. Familiarity and unfamiliarity matter far less than we typically tell ourselves – (ah, the elusive chimera of “originality”!) – indeed, are indistinguishable beyond a momentary intangible feeling inside the individual reader or listener. Familiarity and unfamiliarity are, to use a metaphor at once familiar to acquaintances of the idiom, and ingeniously unfamiliar to those who happen not to have heard it before, two sides of the same coin. (The wisdom of a cliché is unfamiliar the first time we hear it. Moreover, our imperfect memories allow us to experience similar, and even identical things, again and again and again, as if for the first time.) Whether the storyteller seeks to render a thing familiar or unfamiliar will have little effect upon the reception of that thing as familiar or unfamiliar by its audience – not only will it “mean” different things to different people, it will mean different things to the same people, and the same things to different people. The storyteller is not a god, does not have greater power, influence or control over the story than the listening audience or even those who have not listened and yet discuss the tale at a distance from the campfire. Conjecture, speculation and hearsay have a far greater influence over the story than the storyteller herself. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (Clichés most neatly express most of the ideas that are worth expressing: that is how they become clichés. The storyteller must avoid clichés, yet is ultimately seeking to create her own.)
Storytelling is immortality.