Saturday, May 15, 2010

The universe is made of stories

I’ve been editing a long dissertation that is thoughtful and interesting from a complex, philosophical point of view. I’ve become used to the writer’s abstract and theoretical style, and yet I find myself craving examples and stories. Her thoughts go on and on, and I can parse them together and understand what she is saying, but there is nothing concrete in these first 200 pages (!) that I can relate to life experience, mine or anyone else’s.

When I was a graduate student in the late 70s and early 80s, the schools of thought that she is discussing (phenomenology, deconstructionism, hermeneutics, were very popular. But they didn’t speak to me. I was a graduate student in literature because I loved the stories of fiction and memoir, the lived experience of poetry and theater. I loved the characters and their interactions and their interpersonal politics and their dilemmas. I didn’t love thinking abstractly about the underlying intellectual implications of the writers (that all seemed made up and so esoteric I wasn’t interested) or trying to tease out their hidden motivations. But now I see that I was also put off by it, for such abstract thinking and writing was another form of discrimination, a classism, as I wrote earlier in this blog.

In editing this dissertation, I’m less put off by the author’s distancing from concrete reality as I am disappointed not to experience her story. Someone said that the universe is made of stories, not atoms. I believe the universe is made of stories, not concepts. Naïve as it may sound, how we are with each other, how we act and speak and care, are more important to me than how we dissect that intellectually.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your insights Jill. I agree. I just attended a two-day Lutheran Synod conference where, at times, I acutely felt that classism. Some of the speakers wielded their credentials like an impressive shield and put us all asleep. While others took the opportunity to translate their studies into stories that we will all long remember.