Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Tell Stories, It's What I Do

My philosophy professor in college was a really amazing fellow. He used the Socratic method, perhaps better than anyone but Socrates possibly could. I, however, have a difficult time with the Socratic method when it comes to something as impractical as philosophy. Political philosophy makes sense, it has an application. Philosophy itself is a bit too high minded, even for me. And believe me, I keep my head pretty far up in those clouds. I digress. He was an amazing fellow. The good doctor, was never stressed or nervous about anything. He took in stride students shouting at him, challenging his intellect and authority, being generally rude and (I know this one from experience) crying in his office over a test score. Yes, he was and is an amazing fellow. The most amazing thing he ever said, however, did not resemble the statement that "life is like an effervescent bubble floating on the scum of the Detroit river." Nor was it about Descartes or the utilitarians. The most amazing thing he said was this -- and I paraphrase, "When all is said and done philosophy is meaningless. Instead of talking about this stuff, we should be happy and tell stories."

Naturally, that occurred on the last day of class and put me in a fabulous mood for the next five years to the rest of my life. Telling stories, is what I do! In fact, if you ever meet me, you will probably be overwhelmed by the sheer number of stories I tell. That is how I relate to people, that is how I function. I tell stories to make people laugh, I tell stories to emphasize a point. I tell stories because they make me think. I just tell stories.

A good story can have an astounding effect on people. First and foremost, it can make them laugh if it's funny or cry if it's sad. But a more profound story can bring out the truths of things in a startling way. For example, there is the story or parable of the cave from Plato's Republic. I often go over that one in my mind and consider its implications. Funny that it takes a story to explain how important stories are. For example, in Dosteovsky's The Brother's Karamazov, Alyosha gives a speech at the end about the importance of memories. What is a memory but a story that we keep inside ourselves for the rest of our lives? Note, that Alyosha himself, was changed forever by the short memory of his mother interceding for him in prayer when he was a tiny child. In his speech, he speaks of how we can all become evil people, but the memory of when were good (in this case, mourning the death of a child who never harmed anyone) may someday cause us to become good again. This sounds simplistic: that a memory can cause one to turn one's life around? I agree, but I also believe that it can be used by God to change a person's life.

Stories existed before philosophy, logic or working eight hours a day in a stuffy office. And that is why I tell stories.

2 comments:

little-cicero said...

"He took in stride students shouting at him, challenging his intellect and authority, being generally rude and (I know this one from experience) crying in his office over a test score."

Sounds like Thrasymachus. (:

Steven said...

And very good stories they are too. Make sure you keep sharing them with us.