Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Voyages and Ventures

In a metaphorical way, story is The Titanic, setting out on a voyage, with a clear destination in mind, demonstrating the goal or intent so essential to dramatic narrative. In a more personalized way, story is still The Titanic, now splendid in an attitude of preening, overwhelming certainty.  Its sleek, expansive presence proclaims itself as the embodiment of the marriage of design and technology to the point where all who read the story now see The Titanic as an arrogant force, thrusting itself upon the seas it will traverse, again and again, invulnerable.

Human nature being what it is, half the readers of the story will be identifying with the class-based implications of such superiority, taking comfort in rooting for The Titanic to complete the voyage.  Some of these rooters, if questioned, would agree how this splendid craft represents mastery of the elements.  Others, accustomed to life-long associations with fine cars, multiple homes, and pleasure craft of their own, would apply the descriptive term yare, with its connotations of speed, agility, and readiness for action.

Human nature applies as well to the other half of the readership, those who are hard-wired to root for some unforeseen disaster. Among this group would be religion-based conservatives, in their way appalled by the hubris of such a vessel taking on the cargo of invulnerability.  Others voting nay to the supremacy of The Titanic are seeing it as a symbol of social class wars in which sleekness and invulnerability are equated with opulence for its own sake.  

As the denizens of the Indianapolis suburb from Booth Tarkington's novel, The Magnificent Ambersons, waited for George Amberson Minafer to get his comeuppance, those taking offense at the mere presence of The Titanic were likely to have felt the universe a more just place when The Titanic met her fate on her maiden voyage in the North Atlantic on April 14, 1912.

Story is a venture, set in motion against a tide or force, with some concrete expectation of an outcome.  Story is also Dorothy Gale, suddenly not in Kansas any more, wanting to get home. Her goal and probabilities for success are much different than the story of The Titanic.  Dorothy is young, vulnerable, her expectations more along the probable fate of the unnamed migrant farm worker woman immortalized in Dorothea Lange's now iconic photograph, taken during the Great Depression in Nipomo, California.

But story is also the same Dorothy Gale, older and wiser than she was in The Wizard of Oz, now wanting to return to Oz and Princess Ozma, a person she’s come to consider her best friend.

The essential beauty of story resides in the fact of there being many more than one for all of us, engaging, exercising, and satisfying our various needs for participation against real and imagined oppositions, demonstrating how without our slightest overt awareness, we book passage on voyages and ventures necessary to satisfy our sense of connection with Reality.

When the story is real enough, deep enough, resonant with enough implication, we can give up our childhood notions of heroes and heroines, taking on instead darker roles in which we, for a change, are the betrayer rather than the betrayed, the cynic rather than the naif, the jester rather than the Lear or one of the Henrys.

Although you got on splendidly well with your family, on more than one occasion, you reread The Metamorphosis for the avowed mischief of rooting for Gregor Samsa, fully aware of the embarrassment he caused his close ones by the act of turning into a large insect.

Reading for you now is not the mere anodyne of rooting for someone who achieves a goal of status.  Reading becomes the solver of the crime, the presiding judge of equally tenebrous litigants, the witness who is moved beyond knee-jerk one-size-fits-all justice to a front row seat where he understands how all the potentials for human behavior reside in him.  With more reading, more observation, and certainly more writing, you see a potential for being able to get along with yourself and those about you.


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