Monday, November 10, 2008

Dramatic Astronomy

"Man," Mark Twain says, "is the only animal who has a conscience--or needs to." Continuing that thread, Man is the only animal who thinks in metaphor, a quirky side effect to having so many multi-tasking components. Man has learned to see a universe in a grain of sand, causing among other things an endless search for discovery, for noting parallels of construction or systemic similarity. In this spirit, Man has learned how to replicate analogs of the Big Bang, the moment when IT all began. In the process, Man has learned how to cause atoms to collide at great speed, producing or perhaps exposing side effects of great revelatory impact.

Eavesdropping on some of the dialectic among quantum physicists, I have come away with a Big Bang Theory of my own about story that may not replicate the origin of the universe but comes close to helping me define my own sense of what dramatic narrative is and how it begins.

Simply put, story is the result of a collision of accelerated agendas. Anything beyond that definition is an idiosyncratic expansion, the icing and decoration on the cake. In a more complex and appropriately metaphorical definition, story is an orbital configuration of particles, forced into accelerated motion which results in a collision.

Whether simple or the more orotund and pleonastic, story and its effects do present an attractive astronomical metaphor. It is no secret that some form of longevity is one of the subtexts those of us who aspire to tell story invest in our work. Modesty and ego are other subtexts, constantly colliding within the universe that is the individual writer, an ongoing argument between aspiring for immortality and simply doing our very best, setting aside any rewards or recognition beyond the reward of having done the work and the inner recognition of having done it. In that sense, it is the Bhagavad Gita, played forth for an audience of one, wherein Krishna tells Arjuna, "To the work you are entitled, but not the fruits thereof."

In the creative astronomy of loneliness and awe, we consider such orbiting luminaries as Hildegarde of Bingen or Geoffrey Chaucer, or William Shakespeare, still known to us across the void of time. We consider some of their work, their heart-rending work, the things they set into orbit: Ordo Virtutum, the Play of the Virtues; The Wife of Bath, Sir John Falstaff. And we recognize them from their remote orbit and nod with warmth at the realization that we are still seeing them--lights from distant stars.

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