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We are characters in connected narratives

July 14, 2014

Donald Smith writes: “Narrative is a way of ordering our experience and understanding: a follows b follows c, though somehow d may have to be fitted in as well. The story involves active agents who will and desire and do, as well as the world of nature and impersonal forces or circumstances which may limit or produce action. The narrative does not convey random discrete units of experience but a pattern that connects people, events and place. There is a sequence of linked happenings through time.

“In this sense, storytelling and story making are core human activities without which we cannot function. Certainly narrative is fundamental to mythology, religion, culture and, in the post-Darwinian era, to science. Everything, it would appear, is a process through time and to make sense of it we have to make stories. The extent to which we as perceiving humans impose such narratives on the world around us, as well as our experience, and the extent to which we elicit the narratives from something ‘out there’ or ‘in here’, remains problematic. But, whatever the status they are accorded as fact, fiction, scientific theory or divine revelation, frameworks of narrative interpretation are vital.

“Stories are sequences in time but they are not time-bound. This is because they encapsulate memory and memory is the human faculty which works constantly to instil emotion, meaning and value into the sequence of happenings.” (P1)

“Perhaps, in an age of information overload, oral storytelling remains as important as ever before in human culture. Personal acts of memory and oral communication reaffirm the primacy of human capacities and values, and offer vital clues to attitude, identity and culture on individual and collective levels.” (P2)

“Storytelling gives us back our ability to see ourselves and each other as characters in connected narratives.” (P3)

ref: Donald Smith (c2001)Storytelling Scotland: A Nation in Narrative. Polygon: Edinburgh

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