Sunday, December 14, 2008

fiction is the only reality

where does our hunger for stories come from? isn't it odd how a movie can shake us awake, a poem can suddenly bring us back to where we are, a fairy tale sum up our life?

when i tumbled off my bike for the umpteenth time and injured my knee (they say you finally feel old when you have a wound that can't be healed), i resorted to numerous sessions of acupunture. this particular practitioner would weave me into the tales she told like an expert hypnotist. perhaps she got the idea from the teaching pieces of milton ericsson.

i wrote a few of my own:

both believed a story could circumnavigate our defenses, getting us to really listen. after all, part of our training is not listening to parents, teachers, the state, and an infinite number of wise-guys. being told what to do becomes an anathema, so we eventually don't even listen to ourselves.

consider religion. christ was a poet, that's one reason he had such an effect. and the adventures of our divine heroes captivates us and leads us to attempt similar lives. this goes for sports gods and movie stars. if buddha hadn't lived such a good story, or muhammad, would we listen to what they have to say? I much doubt it. arduous episodes, miraculous escapes, unbearable suffering, these get our attention.

the writer thomas berry once said we need a new story. alas, they aren't that easy to come by, not without the gesture of a human being caught in a divine act and situation. we must be able to identify. then we become larger, stronger, and better than we are. yet, without vulnerablity, a superman doesn't interest us.

along with this notion of identification comes my theory breaking the circle of our thoughts. we become trapped in the way we personally see things. every premise leads to the same conclusion. we can't escape believing we know what is real. a good story (movie, play, dance) takes us into another chain of events with unexpected outcomes. people come up with solutions we didn't think possible. and when we walk out of the theater, the world feels refreshed. the myth has brought us to the point of physically feeling the sunlight, smelling the freshness of the rain, and setting our feet more firmly on the ground.

speaking of dance, i've been taking pictures for several weeks. and i realized during the dress rehearsals, the only dance i couldn't get my head around was the first one. as lively and colorful as it was, it told no story (all the rest did) and so i couldn't find images to sum it up. lacking a storyline, it didn't awaken my sleeping imagistic reserves, the power of my imagination. i took fewer of it than any of the other dances.

the most powerful influence on me: those childhood picture books. i can still see certain pages in my mind. i've never wanted to do more than create those of my own, that magic.

you can scan the dance pages at

and i've just added a story of the campus rose garden, following the dictum photograph what you love.