Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Building blocks of narrative

Is narrative is a building, a shape established and carried out for a given set of materials? Can we even assume a given set of materials? Perhaps as the building is coming together, the tools in my hands keep changing, the materials feeling more weighty to the touch as I realize what I have... or as what looked solid now with closer examination seems to be hollow.

The materials might be flimsy, but they might be put together to maximum advantage, offering harmony and shelter. The materials might be shaped to keep out inclement weather or to deter people who wish us harm.

The materials might be top-notch but the design might be so unfocused that it provides no shelter or sustenance — even with great material, the narrative might be basically useless.

Sometimes, in describing our realities, we can lock ourselves inside an unhelpful narrative. I talked to a friend this week who was in incredible pain. He described himself as a car whose battery had run out, who needed a jump from another car to get going again. If he accepts this car narrative to be true, how can he possibly help himself? No matter how well the stalled car as an icon describes what he feels in this moment — tired, out of juice, in need of inspiration — this metaphor as a governing narrative is limiting. I would argue for changing the metaphor before hoping to change anything else.

Still, it must be acknowledged that there is some redemptive power in saying "I." Building narrative is power, regardless of materials or skill. Build the structure and see how it works. Change it if you need to. Tell your story. Even if he or I or you paint any one of ourselves into a corner, we can always paint ourselves out again.

In trying to shape a narrative, any narrative, I convince myself and others who may be listening that I do in fact exist — I am a thinker, an actor. I am voicing a present. Whatever may come after, I.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Waiting for snow

Here the days are clear and cold as we wait for snow to arrive. The city seems to feel a mix of dread and anticipation, like what it was like to be a twelve-year-old girl waiting for puberty. We all know the change will be uncomfortable, terrifying, harsh but probably kind of fun, and whatever the hell it will be it's awfully slow in coming. This is the sky in Boston Commons. Impossibly clear. crisp. blue.