Stories and how we understand them
To a large extent, we don’t understand the cultural waters we swim in because we can’t ordinarily get outside our context. Stories offer us a perspective, not otherwise possible. An experience outside of linea time.
However, metaphor and stories such as the stories found here can offer us the extraordinary perspective we need, In fact, the traditional stories found on this website that is their job, to take us outside the cultural water we swim in, outside of linear time to the eternal. Where all these metaphors are always relevant.
Three is a charm in stories, things happen in threes indeed in life things also happen in threes. In the book the alchemist by Paulo Coelho, says ”If a thing happens once it may or may not happen again, but if it happens twice then it’s bound to happen again”. In the understanding of stories, we need to keep in mind the three levels that stories operate on.
- The personal level. I am unique I am different from you. The Individual Ego so prised by the western construct.
- The social level. You and I share many of the same types of experiences and we agree between us how we will interact with each other. The level of community language, religion, and politics.
- The collective level. Species-level the level of Mankind. Everybody everywhere all of the time. Covid 19 challenged us a species and we all acted in concert to address the threat. However, Covid-19 trampled all over our man-made boundaries and forced us to re-look at ourselves and our assumed immortality. We as a culture do not like to think about death and our own mortality especially for those who think life ends with physical death.
The three levels of the Axis Mundi (the world tree) There is another set of three in these stories we need to be aware of and that is the verticle axis. This other set covers the vertical direction. “Above, Below, and Within” is one such way of describing the vertical direction. The World Tree or the Yggdrasill tree is another from Norse mythology. The macrocosm the mesocosm, and the microcosm is another expression of the same thing.
Category error. Is when we apply the rules governing one level to a different level. This leads to all sorts of confusion and misunderstandings if we are not clear which level we are discussing and keep them separate.
Assumed context. So when we tell each other a story we spend a lot of time explaining the context or the history of what happened prior to the story unless the context is a given or we just assume the context. A story, any story, doesn’t just happen in a vacuum, it has a history which is important for the understanding of the story and the impact of the events. The story takes place within a context we can accept even if that world is a fantasy. Stories require a context so we, the listener can journey with the people in the story and go on the adventure with them. We can get a glimpse of what is meant by the metaphor.
Soul supplies meaning. Metaphors can only work within some sort of context, soul supplies meaning, as much as we are ready for. Ego is the part that needs to go the Journey. It is called the hero’s or the heroic journey down the road less traveled to retrieve the prize. The prize for our ego is Soul. when the soul and the ego make a marriage, it’s called the mystical marriage or squaring the circle. Then we live happily ever after or until the first disagreement anyway. Disagreement is how we got separated in the first place. Not all of this happens in our world, rather in a world outside of time.
However, metaphor and stories such as found here can offer us the extraordinary perspective we need. In fact, the traditional stories found on this website their job to take us outside the cultural water we swim in, outside of linear time to the eternal. Where all metaphors are always relevant.
We don’t understand the waters we swim in our fishbowl called earth, never mind the waters our planet and solar system swim in.
The place for the Never Ending story. The place for the heroic journey.
Please watch the movie before watching the clip below explaining the ending. Explanations are the death of stories and metaphors unless you intend to be a Storyteller. I understand we collectively are no longer used to working with metaphor so I offer this explanation even at the risk of killing the magic.
Like Sebastian, the hero of the ‘Neverending story” we do not believe our life is important, that we are Princes and Princesses of the universe and each of us has gifts for mankind at large. It is for each of us to rename Fantasia of our life. As the ‘Childlike Princess” says “Only a human child can give me a new name” To go on the adventure is the only way to contact a human child.
Requiem for Sebastian Sleeman. In 1994, an auspicious year in Soth Africa we named one of our twin sons Sebastian after Sebastian in the movie Neverending Story. In the family, we shortened his name to Baz. As Baz grew into a young man he loved a certain type of doggerel poetry and was known to burst into song at unique moments such as in woodwork class. His love of music, poetry, drama, and the spoken word carried on into his adult life which included copious consumption of (inspirational?)l whiskey in the best Irish tradition (a browed justification perhaps) as well as Karaoke singing in public. He was part of a group that put on Karaoke evenings at various Pubs. That stopped with the advent of Covid. Baz was loud and took up a lot of space, he had a heart as big as a house and loved nature in the form of cats, a hedgehog, and the local owl population whom he recorded and sent to his friends.
Sebastian has left a huge hole behind him. The planet is a poorer place for his passing, his voice now a whisper for those who can hear. Light a candle in your window for Baz. Tell it to the bees (an old English tradition) and the birds. Sarah and I have told it to the birds so the whole of nature knows Baz is on the far side now.
A thought from Victor Frankl “Man’s search for meaning”
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is their specific opportunity to implement it.
Lots of love and hugs Sam & Sarah.