We Need to Sing Our Epics or Lose Them

20 08 2010

For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, conflicting power of story.

Snook, as faithful readers can attest, is all about narratives and the power of story — in education, relationships, science, politics, work and play, war and peace, in the meaning of life itself. Search this blog using the phrase “power of story” to stay busy reading and thinking for many hours. Add music/musical theatre and “thinking and feeling” to your search, and plan on making this your new homepage indefinitely. 😉

We’ve animated Snook with epic discussions of the Great Derangement of Matt Taibbi, the language stories and Political Mind of George Lakoff, the political right-speak realism of Frank Schaeffer, the situational ethics of Philip Zimbardo and his Lucifer Effect, Harvard’s Howard Gardner on educating kids to love truth and America instead of fighting over it, Don Beck and Ken Wilber’s memes, Richard Florida and his “creative class” plus meaningful movies from Milk and Mindwalk to Hairspray and Madagascar, not to mention Harry Potter and Stanley Fish, plus the leading science lights of edge dot org.

(More Mindwalk and Harry Potter. More Stanley Fishing for meaning of life memes. And the beat goes on . . .)

But nobody tells the story of story better than this new offering from another expert, one with a name that sings a story too, Zach Friend:

Here’s how the script goes:

Republican: I’d like to begin by making an outrageous assertion. It’s obviously false, but boy, is it ever intense.

Democrat: Why, that is clearly untrue! And here’s a list of reasons why…

Republican: Thanks for playing; this is going to be fun!

. . .You see, the right wants you to debate stuff they know is untrue. If you win on the merits, and you probably will, they don’t care at all.

. . .Throughout human history, we haven’t simply stated the results of heroic battles. We’ve sung them as epics. The Democrats have won some heroic battles on issues that matter to millions: health care, financial reform, the environment and more. We need to sing our epics.

Why We Educate Our Kids

Read anything of Howard Gardner’s on leadership, for example:
“Whether direct or indirect, leaders fashion stories: principally stories of identity. It is important that a leader be a good storyteller, but equally crucial that the leader embody that story in his or her life.”

For the public it’s all about the Right Story first. The best stories have always been theatre rather than textbook, and the winner’s trick is to callously choose one potentially transcendent star from the hordes who audition, not to take your wife’s cousin or some schlep off the street and try to make his life story and ordinary skills into great theatre.

With absolutely everything going for a candidate — a great storyline, a receptive public, plenty of media love and money, etc — that perfect candidate still needs to connect with his (or her) own storyline in such a way that it strikes the public as real, and as real art.

Even THAT doesn’t guarantee success at the very top, though, because there are SO few chances and so many contenders; it just makes it somewhat possible that you’ll get that rare shot, to take a number and be judged against all the other lawyers in the nation with a personal cheering section who think they can dance. Emmitt Smith is the best celebrity dancer ever? Sure, why not . . . great story, and as it happened people bought it. . .

. . .

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7 responses

21 08 2010
JJ

We don’t even notice as our stories are rewritten, 88 times out of 100. 😉

25 08 2010
JJ

“As always, it’s time to check in on the overarching media narratives that have ruled over the campaign season, to see how they fared in last night’s tilts. As it turns out, it’s sort of a mixed bag!”

26 08 2010
JJ

Universal Truth as Education Power of Story:

Our kids discovered community musical theatre under their own power, and identify themselves with a company of very talented grown-ups who share their passion and story power, almost like a congregation — at least maybe like a Methodist congregation of my youth, in which each individual is privately and modestly responsible for his or her own beliefs, work and expressions . . .

Other kids spend their summers planning to take over the world, this world, in the name of the next I suppose. These kids and their folks live in a radically different reality than ours, it seems, and belong in a different fictional story too; they’d fit right into the new movie I saw with my kids . . .
The Da Vinci Code fictionalizes all manner of true zealots, who justify all manner of sin as their personal marching orders from whatever they worship (the divine or perhaps secrets, treasure, power, love, pain, duty or just plain winning no matter what.)

There IS no truth we can
agree on objectively, to teach kids. And the truth is we know it
and won’t fix it.

24 09 2010
JJ

For the Love of God, Bless Harry Potter and My Home Sweet Home”:

I think Rowling’s genius is to see humans as carrying both hope and fear, both good and evil, to see us as magnificent, and animals, and facing new threats of extinction — to realize our ancient songs and stories need to be understood in progressively evolving ways, for anyone to win anything worth living or dying for.

How do you suppose real-world power of story is different between Berlin’s popular music for the stage and Rowling’s popular books for the age? . . . Deuteronomy is silent on that point, I believe.

13 10 2010
New Storyline in Politics Is a Real Whopper « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Power of story IS the story, or ought to be, because it’s also the real power. It can cost a candidate everything to buy it and it can also cost a candidate everything not to buy it. […]

18 11 2010
Power of Story Can Change the World « Cocking A Snook!

[…] it’s the only thing that ever has done. We need to sing our epics or lose them. For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, […]

12 11 2013
JJ

Ken Burns’ “Learn the Address” Project:

The inspiration for this project is the tiny Greenwood School in the small town of Putney, Vermont. The school’s students, boys ages 11-17, all face a range of learning differences that have made their personal, academic and social progress extremely challenging. Yet each year they are encouraged to practice, memorize, and recite the Gettysburg Address.

The Greenwood School is the focus of Burns’s next film, THE ADDRESS, which will air on PBS in the spring of 2014. The two-hour, feature-length documentary shines a light on this extraordinary school and its efforts to memorialize the Gettysburg Address.

The film interweaves this contemporary story with the history, context and importance of the Address, which remains one of the most important declarations ever made on human equality. The site and videos will be utilized to create on-going interest in the Gettysburg Address and to support the educational materials that will be distributed as part of the broadcast of Burns’s film in April 2014.

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